Director of Cricket John Abrahams is encouraged how Shropshire’s preparations for the new season are taking shape ahead of the first of four 50-over friendlies this weekend.
The cancellation of the National Counties Cricket Association’s Twenty20 competition left a gap in Shropshire’s early-season fixture list.
But the county has moved quickly to arrange four matches, including home friendlies against two first-class counties, with a Lancashire XI and a Worcestershire XI to both visit Shropshire in the next few weeks.
It will act as ideal preparation for Shropshire before they begin their NCCA Trophy 50-over group campaign against Northumberland at Oswestry on May 30.
Shropshire’s opening friendly takes them to Himley to face Staffordshire this Sunday, April 18.
A Lancashire XI will provide the opposition at Whitchurch on Sunday, May 2, with a Worcestershire XI heading to Bridgnorth the following week, Sunday, May 9.
That will be followed by another home friendly, against Herefordshire at Wellington, on Sunday, May 23.
Abrahams is pleased with the schedule of matches and looking forward to seeing his Shropshire side in action.
He said: “We’re fortunate that we had an arrangement with both Worcestershire and Herefordshire that if we could repeat the friendlies we had against them last season then we would.
“We were due to play Staffordshire in the NCCA Twenty20 competition, so Richard Lees, our secretary, contacted them and they were happy to play a 50-over friendly match instead on the same day, which is brilliant.
“Then through contacts at Lancashire, we offered them a couple of dates and May 2 is one where they can put out a reasonable side, with some second team players and senior academy players, which will benefit them and obviously benefit us too.
“All four matches are 50-over games and will be good preparation for when the NCCA Trophy starts at the end of May.”
Abrahams has been impressed with the commitment and efforts of the Shropshire players since it was possible for the players to get together once again and train outside earlier this month.
The county squad met at Wrekin College over the Easter weekend before playing an inter-squad match at the same venue last Sunday.
Abrahams said: “Thanks to Wrekin College and in particular Tony Parton for the obvious hard work which had gone in to preparing the facilities for us.
“We asked for a centre wicket practice, we asked for nets to be available, and they went above and beyond what was requested.
“We were really grateful for that because it contributed to the quality of the practice that we were able to have.
“We did some centre wicket match scenarios, but at the same time there were people in the nets working, and simultaneously Jason Weaver was also working with the wicketkeepers, so it was really beneficial.
“The commitment and the effort that the players put into it made it all genuinely worthwhile.
“It has helped Jason Weaver, Ian Roe and myself to get an even better picture of the players and where they are at the moment skill wise.”
The sessions also gave Shropshire’s new signing Graham Wagg, the former Glamorgan all-rounder, the opportunity to meet his new team mates.
Abrahams added: “Graham captained in the match scenarios and also captained one of the teams that played against each other last Sunday.
“He has fitted in really well and there were quite a few comments from players about how well he has integrated into the squad and how they are already learning from him, so that was really good.
“From Graham’s point of view, he genuinely enjoyed it and is looking forward to spending more and more time with the squad.”