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Encouraging signs for Shropshire in drawn clash at Herefordshire

Shropshire's cricketers maintained their encouraging early season form in the Unicorns Championship by collecting 12 points from a drawn clash at Herefordshire.
The home side, set 267 for victory on the final day of an exciting match at Eastnor, pulled up well short of their target, closing on 191-7, kept in check by a four-wicket haul from consistent spinner Gurman Randhawa.
Brian Foxall, Shropshire's Chairman of selectors, stressed there were again plenty of positives to emerge for the county following the emphatic victory against Cheshire in their opening Championship match of the season at Whitchurch earlier this month.
"It's been a really good game of cricket, an excellent advert for Minor Counties cricket," he said. "It initially looked like we might lose on the final afternoon and then we were desperately trying to win it.
"When you've got people bowling like Gurman Randhawa and Ben Sanderson, who can tie sides down, you've always got a chance as they make it difficult.
"Herefordshire had a good dart at it to begin with and tried to get ahead of the run rate, but once their openers were out it was tough for them.
"Overall, we've got to be pleased as we've come out of it unbeaten and with 12 points, so it's been a good start to the season."
Shropshire's decision to bat first on Sunday was vindicated as they scored freely to post a competitive first innings total of 367-8. Opener Omar Ali set the tone by top scoring with 92, from 148 balls, a fine knock which featured 14 fours.
Ali put on 85 for the first wicket with Steve Leach, first man out for 39, while there were also decent contributions from Tom Weston (44), skipper James Ralph (36) and Ross Aucott (31no). Herefordshire, in reply, impressively recovered from a precarious 50-4 to post 382-9, thanks in chief to a brilliant, unbeaten 227 from Ed Pollock at No 3. He cracked eight towering sixes and 22 boundaries, facing 255 balls in all. Pollock shared in a fifth-wicket stand of 152 with Mohammed Pardesi, but Shropshire's bowlers stuck to their task, with Randhawa ending the partnership and eventually finishing with figures of 3-145 from 35.4 overs.
Shrewsbury opener Leach, younger brother of in-form Worcestershire star Joe, shone when Shropshire batted again. Leach was unbeaten on 72 overnight and started the third and final day chasing a century, only to miss out when he fell for 91, from 163 balls.
Robbie Clarke, having been forced to halt his innings a day earlier owing to a knee injury, returned to the crease to hit 69 while Ralph, with 33, and a quickfire, unbeaten 30 from Aucott pushed the score up to 281 all out, with leg spinner Pardesi claiming 4-51.
That left Herefordshire a victory target of 267 from a minimum of 55 overs and they enjoyed a flying start, the two openers quickly racing to 58 before David Exall, the home captain, was bowled by Randhawa. Matt Higginbottom then made a significant breakthrough, claiming the wicket of the dangerous Pollock for 20 to lift Shropshire's hopes as Herefordshire, at one stage well placed at 91-1, started to lose wickets at regular intervals.
Randhawa applied plenty of pressure, taking 4-68, and the home side eventually ended well off the pace on 191-7 to leave Shropshire with much to look forward to ahead of their next Championship match, away to Berkshire, at Falklands CC, Newbury, starting on Sunday, July 5.
"We're playing some good cricket," said Shropshire coach Karl Krikken. "We've played five days of Championship cricket this season and we've won four of them. "The second day of this game really took it away from us. If we had bowled in the first innings as we did in the second, we could have probably won the game. "But we fought back well and it's been a good start. Last year we started with two defeats but this time we've had a win and the better of a draw so it augurs well."
Pictured: Shropshire opener Steve Leach - fell nine runs short of a century in the second innings of the drawn game at Herefordshire.
                                                                      Stuart Dunn