Three challenging days at Nantwich ended with Shropshire’s cricketers losing heavily to Cheshire in the Unicorns Championship.
Shropshire were bowled out for 174 early on the third and final day as Cheshire wrapped up victory by an innings and 31 runs.
Cheshire had taken control of the match on the opening day by rattling up a formidable 479-8 before dismissing Shropshire twice, with the visitors removed for 274 in their first innings.
Shropshire have just one more Championship match left this season, against Wiltshire at Marlborough, which starts on September 1.
Bryan Jones, Shropshire’s chairman of selectors, said: “Cheshire got away from us in the first innings to score a tremendous total. They’ve almost taken us out of the game, which is then very difficult to recover from.
“Cheshire are always a strong side and have plenty of depth.
“But I think it really sums up how our season has gone. It’s been a tough season, a disrupted season, with the amount of players we’ve had to use because of injuries and unavailability. We haven’t been able to field a settled team.
“On the plus side, that’s given other people an opportunity to play and have the experience of playing Minor Counties cricket.
“But this is obviously a very heavy defeat and we’ve had a couple of them now this season. We’ve got one game to go against Wiltshire when we will look to salvage some of our pride for the season.”
Starting day three on 121-6, a deficit of 84 runs, Shropshire quickly lost Simon Gregory, unable to add to his overnight score of 30, when he was caught by Luke Robinson off Ben Gibbon.
Skipper Joe Carrasco soon followed, caught behind by Robert Sehmi off former Shropshire allrounder David Wainwright for six.
Eddie Rhodes hit a six and three fours before being next man out for 23, when Rick Moore took a catch off the bowling off Simon Normanton.
And it was all over when Normanton (4-28) quickly struck again, bowling last man Ben Roberts for eight, to leave Sam Ellis unbeaten on 11.
Cheshire were in the driving seat after keeping the scoreboard ticking over to accumulate 479-8 after being asked to bat first on day one.
Sehmi led the way with a fine 122, from 130 balls, hitting 22 fours in the process, while Robinson (76), Wainwright (71), Will Evans (71) and Normanton (51no) were also in good touch.
Warrick Fynn plugged away to pick up 4-157, with two wickets apiece for Ellis and Roberts.
Shropshire, in reply, lost Carrasco to the final ball of the day to close on 52-2.
Promising Oswestry batsman Xavie Clarke compiled his maiden half century for the county on day two before falling for 61.
Alexei Kervezee (32) and Gregory (24) provided some support, but the stand-out performer with the bat was Matt Swift.
Batting at eight, Shropshire were 133-6 when the Shrewsbury wicketkeeper came to the crease, but Swift played a fine knock to end unbeaten on 92.
He faced 100 balls, cracking three sixes and 13 fours, and looked on course for a century until Shropshire were dismissed for 274, with much of the damage inflicted by Normanton (4-60) and Gibbon (3-55).
With Cheshire in front by 205 runs at the halfway stage, they opted to enforce the follow on.
Shropshire soon lost Fynn without scoring, but there was no sign of what was to follow when Clarke and Jack Edwards moved the score along to 80-1.
But the departure of Edwards for 15 prompted a dramatic collapse as Shropshire suddenly found themselves 86-5.
Kervezee and Ross Aucott both fell to Rick Moore (3-39) without troubling the scorers, Clarke had just completed his second 50 of the day when he went for 52, from 68 balls, bowled by Normanton.
Then when Normanton trapped Swift lbw without scoring, Shropshire were in trouble at 103-6.
Gregory and Carrasco dug in to guide them to 121-6 by the close, but Cheshire sensed victory and quickly pressed home their advantage on the final day.
“Xavie Clarke’s only 18, so to score 50 in both innings is a very good effort,” added Jones. “Matt Swift also batted well to make 92 not out, so there were some plus points to emerge.
“But overall we were outplayed over the three days and it’s very disappointing.”