Chairman of selectors Bryan Jones insists Shropshire’s cricketers are looking forward to the challenge of facing defending Minor Counties champions Berkshire.
The teams meet in a three-day match which starts at Shifnal on Sunday, with Shropshire keen to build on last week’s opening Unicorns Championship victory of the season.
Berkshire, having completed a hat-trick of successive Minor Counties titles last season, are once more setting the pace at the top of the Western Division this summer.
They have won all three of their Championship fixtures and are currently 12 points clear of second-placed Dorset, with Shropshire up to fifth in the table after beating Cornwall by five wickets at Bridgnorth.
Jones has a healthy respect for Berkshire and how they have dominated the Minor Counties game in recent years – but stressed this is a match for the Shropshire players to relish.
He said: “Berkshire have obviously been very successful in recent years and are top of the table again, but we’ve been thoroughly looking forward to this fixture all season.
“We came second against them last year when they beat us at Finchampstead, one of the defining moments of the season.
“But we’re looking forward to the match at Shifnal, particularly after winning our last game against Cornwall, and pitting ourselves against the best team in the country and seeing if we can beat them.
“Berkshire are a talented all round side with a good seam attack, a good spin attack and a good batting line-up.
“But we’re pleased to be playing them at Shifnal and looking forward to it.”
Jones highlighted the importance of Shropshire going into the Berkshire match boosted by last week’s win over Cornwall, their first under captain Joe Carrasco.
Warrick Fynn took 11 wickets in the match before leading the successful run chase with an unbeaten half century as Shropshire sealed victory early on the final day.
“We needed a reaction after the Oxfordshire game and we got it,” he added. “Off the back of a win, it’s given Joe and the team a lot of confidence.
“Joe’s in good form, Jack Edwards made a great contribution, as did Warrick Fynn obviously.”
Shropshire have beaten Cheshire and Oxfordshire on their last two Championship appearances at Shifnal, a ground where the county always enjoy playing.
“We love playing there,” said Jones. “Shifnal look after us and are very welcoming. The ground always looks pretty spectacular for our county matches.”
Wicketkeeper Matt Swift will make his Shropshire debut. Simon Gregory, who kept wicket against Cornwall, is unavailable, so Swift, enjoying an impressive season for Shrewsbury in the Birmingham League, receives his first call up.
He joins his London Road team mates Will Parton and Sam Ellis in the county side.
“It’s a good opportunity for Matt,” added Jones. “He’s been on the radar for a while and has been doing well for Shrewsbury. He’s a good wicketkeeper and also capable of scoring some important runs.”
Shropshire make three other changes from the team which beat Cornwall.
Ryan Lockley and Jack Twigger both return, while seamer Eddie Rhodes, who made his county debut in the Unicorns Knockout Trophy against Cumberland in June, also comes in.
They replace Ben Roberts, Tyler Ibbotson and Ross Aucott, who is ruled out with a knee injury.
The first ball will be bowled at 11am on Sunday, with admission free for spectators on all three days.
Shropshire: Joe Carrasco (captain), Will Parton, Xavie Clarke, Warrick Fynn, Alexei Kervezee, Ryan Lockley, Jack Edwards, Matt Swift, Jack Twigger, Sam Ellis, Eddie Rhodes.