Shropshire have strengthened their squad ahead of the new National Counties Cricket Association season by making four new signings, including top order batter Tom Fell who left Worcestershire at the end of last season.
Former Worcestershire and England under-19 opener Ollie Westbury, who played for Shropshire earlier in his career, experienced seamer Andy Sutton and top order batter James Middleton have also joined.
Sutton was the leading wicket taker in the Birmingham Premier League last season, while Middleton is another consistent Birmingham League performer.
Shropshire’s new head of cricket Ed Home is delighted with the quality of the four new additions as he looks forward to the 2023 campaign.
He said Fell, Westbury and Sutton will be available to play in all three formats and Middleton is to play in the T20 and 50-over Trophy competitions.
Fell, 29, has played 97 first-class matches, scoring 4,485 runs at an average of 28.75, with a career-best score of 171 against Middlesex in 2015.
He has also hit 1,541 runs in 52 List A matches at an average of 33.50, with his highest score an unbeaten 116 against Lancashire in 2016.
Fell plays his club cricket for Wolverhampton and scored over 900 Birmingham League runs to help them gain promotion last season.
Westbury, 25, struck 196 on his England under-19 debut against Sri Lanka in 2016. He played four first-team matches for Worcestershire, including two in the County Championship, before leaving at the end of the 2020 season.
A former Shrewsbury School pupil who used to play his club cricket for Shrewsbury, Westbury now captains Himley.
He played for Shropshire earlier in his career and scored a NCCA Championship century against the county for Cornwall in 2021.
Sutton, 37, who had a spell with Somerset earlier in his career, took 68 Birmingham League wickets for Barnt Green last season.
He has recently been appointed as Warwickshire’s new head high performance coach for the club’s pathway programme. He previously co-ordinated Worcestershire’s junior pathway and coached in the club’s academy.
Middleton, 28, a former Staffordshire player, is a top order batter who has also kept wicket for Knowle & Dorridge and averaged over 50 with the bat in the Birmingham League last season.
Shropshire’s head of cricket Home said: “I’m very excited that Tom Fell, who actually played junior cricket for Shropshire at under-10s level and has family in the county, has signed and it’s nice to have him involved.
“He’s still a young man in terms of batting and is very keen to carry on scoring runs. He’s a top player who has a lot to offer and we saw during the winter training he was happy to share his experience and knowledge with the squad.
“I’m delighted to have Ollie Westbury back with Shropshire because he was schooled in the county and played a few games for us when he was with Shrewsbury CC. He wants to play in all formats and like Tom has a good pedigree and loves batting.
“James Middleton has played a lot of cricket. He was at Staffordshire and also played a few Leicestershire 2nd XI games. Year in year out he’s one of the best performers in the Birmingham League. I watched him play a few times last year and what I like is that he’s a tough competitor and understands how to manage an innings.
“Andy Sutton took more wickets than anybody in the Birmingham League last year. His bowling expertise is obviously what everybody will focus on and he’s been very successful over a number of years.
“With Andy’s skill level and quality as a coach, he will be fantastic for our younger players as he’s very focused and organised in how he prepares and plays his cricket.
“Through our colleagues at the Shropshire Cricket Board and now with Tom Fell and Ollie Westbury, we have great links with Worcestershire.
“With Andy being a high performance coach at Warwickshire, our own coaches will now be able to develop their skills and he will also be able to mentor our younger players.”
Home has been impressed with what he’s seen from the Shropshire squad during winter nets at Ellesmere College, with Shrewsbury opener George Hargrave and Wellington all-rounder Dan Lloyd among the players being available to play this season.
Home added: “George didn’t play much for Shropshire last year with him captaining Oxford University, but I am very happy that he’s keen to play. He has been a top performer over a number of years now and has recently spent three months in Cape Town working on his fitness and playing club cricket there.
“Dan is back involved and having known him for a long time, he has the potential to be a key performer for us both with the ball and in the middle order.
“It is great to see several of our players performing with distinction early in the season for their respective universities against first class opposition.
“We are very happy with our players and all the way through have good people involved both on the field and also behind the scenes supporting.”
Pictured: Former Worcestershire top order batter Tom Fell has signed for Shropshire ahead of the new season.