Chairman of selectors Bryan Jones admitted Shropshire’s cricketers had been outplayed after losing by 273 runs at Oxfordshire in the Unicorns Championship.
The county, set a formidable victory target of 405 at Banbury, were dismissed for 131 in their second innings, with Gareth Andrew, the former Worcestershire allrounder, inflicting much of the damage by claiming five wickets.
Jones said: “We’re obviously very disappointed as we went into the game reasonably confident after our performance against Dorset at Shrewsbury.
“But I guess we were outplayed – out bowled, out batted and out fielded – over the three days, so it was a bad day at the office on all three days.
“That puts a bit of a dent in our challenge, but some other results did go our way and teams in the division are all beating each other, so that may help us.”
Jones highlighted the skills of the experienced Andrew as he claimed nine wickets in the match while fellow seamer Russell White also impressed with the ball for Oxfordshire.
He said: “Their seamers bowled well on a pitch that helped seam and the stand out man was Gareth Andrew. He was probing, showed tremendous skill and put our batsmen under pressure for spells of eight, 10 overs.
“I would suggest it was a high skilled performance from him that put us on the backfoot.
“They fully deserved to win the game. They outplayed us and had a few top individual performers on a seaming wicket.
“From a learning process for our young bowlers, they were able to look at Gareth Andrew and see how he went about his business and think that’s how to bowl on that particular type of wicket.”
Starting the final day 338 runs in front, Oxfordshire opted to bat for a further 10 overs as they moved the score along from 190-6 to 256-7 declared, stretching their advantage to 404 runs.
Shrewsbury’s Sam Ellis (3-31) picked up his third wicket of the innings – and fifth of the match on his Championship debut – when Sam Whitney took a catch to remove Richard Kaufman, as Oliver Clarke remained unbeaten on 40.
Set an imposing target, Shropshire were dealt an early blow with Alex Phillips caught by Andrew off White for four.
He was quickly followed back to the pavilion by captain Joe Carrasco for 11, caught and bowled by Andrew, to leave the county in trouble at 18-2.
White struck again with Alexei Kervezee caught behind by Callum Russell for four, and it was soon 37-4 when Will Parton was bowled by Andrew for 10.
Wickets continued to tumble with Ross Aucott, who made five, next to go as he fell to a Jordan Garrett catch to become Andrew’s third victim.
Resuming after lunch on 55-5, Jack Edwards was the sixth man out, caught by Tom Cosford off Joe Butcher for nine.
Ryan Lockley and Sam Whitney put on 36 for the seventh wicket – the best partnership of the innings – which ended when Andrew returned to the attack to remove Lockley, caught behind for 25.
Jack Twigger and Ellis, the fifth victim of Andrew (5-38) when trapped lbw, were next to go before Bridgnorth’s Whitney, having top scored with 42 at No 8, was last man out, removed by White, who ended with impressive figures of 4-12.
After electing to bat on day one, Oxfordshire accumulated 334-8 in their first innings.
Kaufman led the way with 113, from 195 balls, a knock which included 16 boundaries, while Shabaaz Alam (54), Andrew (39) and Cosford (33) also weighed in.
Edwards claimed 3-70 while Ellis took 2-27, before Shropshire closed the opening day on 51-2, with skipper Carrasco unbeaten on 42.
Carrasco was closing in on his second Shropshire century of the season until, just after lunch on day two, he fell agonisingly short, caught behind off Andrew for 99, having faced 224 balls and struck 11 fours.
No other Shropshire batsman scored more than 18 as the visitors were dismissed for 186, with Andrew taking 4-47.
Oxfordshire led by 148 runs ahead of batting for a second time and they set off in pursuit of quick runs, with the home openers putting on 69 before Kervezee removed Alam for 38.
Skipper Harry Smith top scored with 65 and Russell added 41 to further strengthen the home side’s position as they went on to wrap up victory on the final afternoon.
Jones added: “Looking at the positives to come out of it, Joe Carrasco batted really well, a class act, and Sam Ellis on his debut took five wickets in the match, so there were some good things.”
Shropshire’s next Championship match is against Cornwall at Bridgnorth starting on July 21.