Shropshire’s cricketers were beaten by seven wickets by Wiltshire as the county’s final Unicorns Championship fixture of the season was completed inside two days at Marlborough.
Chairman of selectors Bryan Jones was disappointed to see Shropshire twice bowled out for 123, before Wiltshire successfully advanced to their modest victory target of 79.
“We’re obviously very disappointed with the defeat again,” said Jones. “We haven’t been able to apply ourselves and bat well in either innings.
“Matty Simmonds came in and played well on the first day on his debut, but he sadly picked up a nasty knee injury, which meant he was unable to play no further part.
“Matty was a plus for us, and Sam Ellis also did well – the bowlers did okay.
“But we just didn’t post enough runs and haven’t applied ourselves well at the crease. It was a low-scoring game and it was a tricky wicket, but they got a lead at the end of the first innings.
“We lost early wickets and it was just a case of application really. If somebody had put a good partnership together or scored a good total, it probably would have won the game.
“But, all in all, we’re very disappointed to finish the season this way. We hoped to go into this game and do well, but it’s been one of those sorts of seasons and it’s been very disappointing.”
Shropshire fell away from a promising 95-2 just before lunch to be bowled out for 123 for the second time in as many days.
Despite the best efforts of a Shropshire attack led by Sam Ellis – who took six wickets in the match – the hosts progressed to their target.
Day two had started with Wiltshire looking to push on from their overnight total of 140-6, but they soon lost Jacob Lintott, removed by the promising Ellis for 48.
Ellis and Oswestry’s Ben Roberts quickly wrapped up the home side’s innings as Wiltshire were dismissed for 168 to lead by 45 runs at the halfway stage.
Shrewsbury seamer Ellis ended with 4-41 from 14 overs and Roberts also impressed with the ball, claiming 4-35 from 15.5 overs.
Shropshire again made a poor start with the bat second time out and were soon in trouble at 7-2, with Tahir Afridi (2-33) sending both skipper Joe Carrasco (0) and Warrick Fynn (5) back to the pavilion.
Opener Jack Edwards and Alexei Kervezee set about repairing the early damage by putting on 88 for the third wicket, but the departure of Kervezee, trapped lbw by Lintott for 49 just before lunch, prompted a dramatic collapse from 95-2 to 123 all out.
Edwards had moved on to 34 when he also fell lbw to Lintott just after play resumed and no-one else contributed more than five as the wickets tumbled, with Lintott claiming 5-21 to add to the three wickets he claimed in the first innings.
Chasing 79 to win, Wiltshire were soon reduced by 22-2 when Ellis got rid of Tom Grant without scoring and Uzair Qureshi for eight.
When Fynn bowled Bradley Dawson for five, Wiltshire were 30-3, but opener William Wade (32no) and skipper Ed Young (28no) then teamed up to see the job through.
After electing to bat on the opening morning, Shropshire were in trouble at 67-6. Wellington’s Matty Simmonds, a late call up to replace the injured Ross Aucott, tried to inspire a revival by compiling an unbeaten 27 on his first team debut, but the visitors were removed for 123, with Lintott claiming 3-17 and Joseph King 3-45.
Wiltshire also struggled initially with the bat and were 10-3 until skipper Young (58) and Lintott put on 99 for the fourth wicket.
But the home side had the better of the second day as they managed to secure victory and inflict a fourth defeat in six Championship matches on Shropshire this season.
Shropshire will now play in the second tier of the Western Division under the new format introduced for next year when 10 teams will be split into two divisions.
Reflecting on the season, Jones said: “We’re obviously very disappointed how it’s worked out. We wouldn’t have predicted this on the back of last season. We’re disappointed for the supporters who follow us around the country. We thank them, as always, for their great support.”
He added: “I think this game just sums up the season in many ways. We’ll have to rethink, reorganise and replan to try and push Shropshire cricket forward next season.”