Shropshire became the latest side to be beaten by a strong Berkshire team as the Minor Counties champions for the last three years completed victory by 241 runs on the final afternoon at Shifnal.
Shropshire’s second innings was into its 101st over when they were dismissed for 167.
It wrapped up a fourth Berkshire three-day victory from as many games this season as they remain well clear at the top of the Unicorns Championship Western Division table.
Shropshire’s chairman of selectors Bryan Jones said: “They’re a top side. They’ve proved they’re the best side in the country.
“That’s why they end up top because they get in control of games and are really ruthless. They go about their business. They’ve got a good bowling attack, good variety, and can keep you under pressure.
“They’re the team to beat and if you’re on the back foot against sides that are used to winning so well, it’s very difficult to topple them.”
Berkshire accumulated scores of 350-8 and 200-8 declared to take a firm grip on the game, with Shropshire always up against it after being dismissed for 142 in their first innings.
“I think we’ve been beaten by a better side,” admitted Jones. “Bowling first was perhaps an opportunity to get right into them when it was probably assisting us on the first morning and we didn’t quite take enough wickets. They got to 350 and it could have been a few more.
“I think that we batted on probably the best of the wicket against a very good bowling attack, so we were disappointed to be bowled out for less than 150.
“When you’re 200 behind, you’re obviously up against it and they can then bat us out of the game.
“They can crowd us and put us under pressure in the second innings.
“We’ve batted for 100 overs, so we’ve put up a bit of a fight, which is good, but, all in all, we’re disappointed. We’ve been out bowled, out batted.
“A few performances have been okay, but our top score in the match was only 36, which is obviously not good enough, so if you look at the stats they’re not good enough.
“I can’t say people haven’t tried hard and put some good performances in. They’ve worked hard for the team, which is encouraging when we’ve been under the cosh, so those are the good things.”
Starting the final day 48-2, still 361 runs adrift of their imposing victory target of 409, Shropshire were dealt an early blow when Will Parton was bowled by Andy Rishton for 21 without any addition to the overnight total.
Warrick Fynn and Sam Ellis put on 49 for the fourth wicket before Fynn was bowled by Luke Beaven for 25.
From 97-3 it was soon 104-6, with Alexei Kervezee caught behind by Sukhmeet Kang off left-arm spinner Beaven for four, before the same combination teamed up to end the stubborn resistance of Ellis.
The Shrewsbury youngster batted with determination to make 15 as he spent nearly two hours at the crease after being promoted up the order late on day two.
Ryan Lockley and Jack Edwards moved the score along to 131-6 at lunch, but Lockley was seventh man out just afterwards, caught by Michael Williams off Euan Woods for 19.
Beaven struck again, with the help of Kang, as debutant wicketkeeper Matt Swift went for 12.
Edwards, playing at his home club ground, was next to go for 20, with Archie Carter pouncing to hold a catch off former Middlesex spinner Chris Peploe.
And it was all over shortly after 3pm when seamer Rishton bowled Eddie Rhodes for four.
Jones added: “For the experience in a three-day game for lads to bat time when we’re trying to save the game, that’s good experience for them.
“When you’re under pressure and you’ve got a silly point, a short leg, it’s a different game to playing on a Saturday afternoon.”
Berkshire signalled their intent on the opening day after electing to bat.
Led by 96 from captain James Morris and 83 from opener Carter, Luke Hollman (41) and Peploe (37) also weighed in. Seamer Rhodes, making his Championship debut for Shropshire, claimed 4-98 from 27 overs.
Shropshire, in reply, were reduced to 55-3 by the close, before the departure of Parton for 36 saw the hosts slide from 82-3 to 142 all out by lunch on day two.
Kervezee (24) and Edwards (20) were the only other batsmen to contribute, as seamer Rishton inflicted much of the damage by taking 5-46.
Berkshire set about increasing their lead of 208 runs at the halfway stage, with Woods (50) and Williams (36no) top scoring second time round.
Wickets fell at regular intervals, five of them to Oswestry left-arm spinner Fynn, rewarded with figures of 5-86 from 26 overs.
Berkshire eventually declared just after tea on 200-8, with Shropshire set a formidable victory target of 409.
They quickly lost skipper Joe Carrasco cheaply and his Oswestry team mate Xavie Clarke followed for 19.
Berkshire then plugged away with the ball on the final day to seal another victory, with the result leaving Shropshire seventh in the Western Division table.
Shropshire’s two final Championship matches are both away fixtures, the next at Nantwich against Cheshire beginning on August 18, before they close the season against Wiltshire at Marlborough at the start of September.
Pictured: The scene at Shifnal on day three as Shropshire were beaten by Berkshire in the Unicorns Championship.