Director of Cricket John Abrahams was pleased with Shropshire’s efforts as the county enjoyed a winning start to their National Counties Cricket Association Trophy campaign.
New captain Graham Wagg led from the front as Shropshire beat Northumberland by three wickets in an exciting opening group match in the 50-over One Day Trophy at Oswestry.
After taking three wickets, Wagg struck an unbeaten half century, putting on 112 for the sixth wicket with Ben Lees, who hit a fine 50, as Shropshire timed their chase well to reach their victory target with nine balls to spare.
Abrahams said: “The obvious stand-out performance was from Graham Wagg in his first competitive game for us and his experience came to the fore.
“Not only did he show us how to build and pace an innings in a one-day game, he led important partnerships with Ross Aucott and then Ben Lees to put us in a strong winning position.
“We have talked about converting twenties and thirties into match-winning performances and that’s what Graham showed.
“We opted for Ben Lees to take on the role of wicketkeeper-middle order batsman and he carried his role out exactly the way that we wanted him to.
“It was disappointing he was out towards the end, probably more so for Ben than anybody else, but his contribution cannot be under estimated.
“We still needed over 100 runs when he came into bat with five wickets down and he helped Graham more or less see us through to victory.”
Northumberland, asked to bat first after Wagg won the toss, were well placed at 104-1.
But then came a flurry of wickets, prompted by the departure of opener Alasdair Appleby for 58, which was swiftly followed by Wagg taking two wickets in the same over, to reduce the visitors to 105-4.
Former Durham wicketkeeper Michael Richardson (30), Sean Tindale, who struck four sixes in making 48, and skipper Tom Cant (26) kept the scoreboard ticking over.
But the north east county continued to lose wickets regularly and were eventually bowled out for 240 in the 47th over.
Wagg ended with 3-35 from 7.3 overs and leg spinner Sam Whitney 3-56 from 10 overs.
Opener Ryan Lockley, playing at his home club ground, struck 40 at the start of Shropshire’s reply before he was run out, and when Xavier Clarke quickly followed him back to the pavilion for 25, the hosts found themselves 77-4.
Aucott joined Wagg in the middle and played well for 34.
Then came the key to Shropshire’s successful chase as former Glamorgan all-rounder Wagg and Bridgnorth wicketkeeper Lees teamed up for a sixth-wicket partnership of 112 to take the county to the brink of victory.
The impressive Lees, 18, struck seven fours in his run-a-ball 50, departing with just six runs needed for victory.
It was left to Sam Ellis to hit the winning boundary as he and Wagg, unbeaten on 66, which came off 76 balls, and included three big sixes and three fours, saw Shropshire home to 241-7 with one and half overs to spare.
Matthew Scott took 2-51 for Northumberland while Kieron Waterson bowled 10 tight overs for 1-18.
Reflecting on Shropshire’s overall performance, Abrahams said: “We spoke about it in the debrief afterwards. It wasn’t a perfect team performance, but it was a match-winning one.
“We wanted to enjoy the moment, we wanted to enjoy the win, so we didn’t talk about any of the areas that we perhaps need to look at over the next couple of weeks, to identify, discuss and then address before our next match.”
Abrahams was also quick to thank Oswestry Cricket Club for all their hard work in hosting the game.
“We must thank and congratulate everyone at Oswestry for their contribution,” he added. “We were lucky with the weather, but thanks to John Hulme, the Shropshire chairman, and all his colleagues at Oswestry, especially groundsman Dave Vart.
“I understand the outfield was under water in the early part of the week and what they must have done to prepare the pitch and get the outfield ready was an immense effort.
“The atmosphere was very good with the spectators around the ground.
“They will have hopefully enjoyed the day, enjoyed a good cricket match, and the majority will have enjoyed the result.”
Shropshire’s second of four group matches in the NCCA Trophy will take them to Toft CC to face Cheshire on Sunday, June 20.
The county’s next home game is a week later on June 27 against Staffordshire at Wem CC.