A dramatic finish saw Shropshire narrowly beaten by one wicket in their latest National Counties Cricket Association Championship match at Cornwall.
Chasing a target of 271 on the final afternoon at St Austell, Cornwall recovered from 85-6 to seal victory with their last two batters at the crease.
When Shropshire seamer Ben Roberts removed Christian Purchase, caught by wicketkeeper Ben Lees, for 111, Cornwall were 246-9 and still required 25 more runs to win.
But Tom Dinnis and Ellis Whiteford held their nerve to see the hosts home as Shropshire came so close to following up their win over Wales earlier this month with another positive result.
Shropshire coach Dave Nock, admitting the final result was a tough one to take, said: “It was a magnificent match. Clearly, the lads were disappointed, but there were a number of positives to take out of it.
“They can take heart going into the final couple of games and we’re not far off.
“It was an incredible game of cricket, nearly 1,000 runs scored, and there was some fantastic cricket.”
Nock felt Shropshire’s young side – captained by the experienced Graham Wagg, who hit a fine century in the first innings – gave a very good account of themselves throughout the three days, with Joe Stanley and Jack Home the latest promising young players to be handed first team debuts.
Nock said: “The average of the side, less Graham Wagg, was under 21 – 22 and a half with Graham – and the Cornish people were very appreciative of the fact we were playing young players.
“Keeping that side together moving forward is a positive step.
“Performances have been far better over the longer format, so let’s carry that momentum into the NCCA Showcase game with Derbyshire at Shifnal on Sunday and then the final Championship game against Devon at Bridgnorth.
“The debut of Joe Stanley at 16 was one of the positives. He got some wickets and scored his maiden 50 when he put on a superb partnership of 114 with Graham Wagg to put us in with a good shout on the final day.
“Jack Home, also making his debut at 16, bowled a double wicket maiden in his very first over.
“Graham played particularly well in both innings, and he was well supported in the first innings by the returning Xavie Clarke and Ben Lees.”
Nock also highlighted the contribution of seamer Ben Roberts, who took eight wickets in the match.
He added: “Sam Ellis, one of our key bowlers, was unable to bowl for the whole game after unfortunately coming down with tonsillitis.
“We clearly missed having the extra bowler because we only had two seamers, but Ben Roberts was superb and bowled very well.”
Ahead of the final day drama, Shropshire had elected to bat on day one, recovering from 17-3 to 155-5 by the time play was curtailed owing to rain.
Wagg shared useful partnerships with Clarke (41) and Lees (46) – a sixth-wicket stand of 111 – and once he completed his third Championship century for Shropshire, he really went on the attack, hitting four consecutive sixes in one over, before falling for an excellent 143.
Wagg faced 206 balls, hitting 10 fours and eight sixes in all, as he struck Shropshire’s first century of the season, before declaring the county’s first innings on 286-7, with Ben Ellis (2-63) and Dinnis (2-70) the pick of the home bowlers.
Cornwall, in reply, slipped from 55-2 to 98-7, before Purchase (67) and Ellis (56) helped them to 225 all out, with Roberts (4-48) and Home (2-24) impressing with the ball.
Shropshire’s second innings started late on day two and they closed on 63-3, leading by 124 runs.
They lost three early wickets on the final day, including Clarke for 35, before Wagg was joined in the middle by Stanley at 80-6.
They put on 114 for the seventh wicket, with Wagg hitting 63 and Stanley a fine 58, as Shropshire were bowled out for 209, with Purchase taking 3-47 and Dinnis 3-56.
It looked to be advantage Shropshire when Cornwall found themselves 85-6, with three of the wickets claimed by off-spinner Stanley (3-73).
But Purchase was still there and he lifted his side’s challenge with a number of big shots during a seventh-wicket stand of 104 with Daniel Lello (33).
Ellis (29) then joined Purchase and the pair added 52 for the eighth wicket to take Cornwall to 241-7 before Roberts (4-78) removed both in quick succession to give Shropshire real hope.
The departure of Purchase for an excellent 111 from 74 balls, which included six sixes and 12 fours, brought together last-wicket pair Dinnis and Whiteford and they managed to guide Cornwall home to 271-9 in a tense finale.