An outstanding bowling performance from Joe Stanley was the highlight for Shropshire as the county’s final Durant Cricket National Counties Championship match of the season ended in defeat by seven wickets against Wiltshire.
Stanley, who celebrated his 18th birthday last Saturday, impressively took nine wickets in Wiltshire’s first innings at Whitchurch Cricket Club.
He claimed a stunning haul of 9-83 from 30 overs to lift a young Shropshire side’s hopes of signing off their Western Division Two campaign on a positive note.
But Wiltshire, ultimately set a target of 190 in their second innings, had other ideas and completed victory before lunch on the third and final day.
Ed Home, Shropshire’s head of cricket, praised the excellent contribution with the ball of off-spinner Stanley, who recently concluded his studies at Thomas Telford School.
Stanley’s figures are the second best ever by a Shropshire bowler in a Championship match, only bettered by a return of 9-56 from former Yorkshire and Derbyshire spinner Andy Gray against Cornwall at Truro in 2008.
Delighted with the impact of Stanley, who is Worcestershire CCC’s Academy captain, Home said: “It was exceptional bowling from Joe. He bowled very accurately to attacking fields and he got the ball to spin. He did very well and it was extremely impressive, so we are very pleased for him.”
Reflecting on the match, Home added: “We had a young side out due to a few enforced changes in personnel from our last game at Dorset.
“Setting it in that context, I was pretty happy with much of what we achieved against a strong Wiltshire side.
“A lot of players got starts with the bat but were unable to go on and convert. Bowling wise, we dropped some catches and had we held on to them the game could have ended up being a lot closer.
“In the third innings we had ourselves in a good position and could have perhaps gone on and set Wiltshire a more challenging total, but that’s cricket and these things happen.”
Eighteen wickets fell on the opening day at Heath Road, with Shropshire, having elected to bat, bowled out for 183 in 51 overs.
Reduced to 78-5 just before lunch, the hosts lost wickets at regular intervals as captain Charlie Home top scored with 34, with Andre Bradford and Stanley the only other home batters to reach 20.
Spinner Joe King claimed 4-36, with Arthur Godsal (3-25) and Keron Bennett-Thomas (2-57) also playing their part with the ball.
Wiltshire, in reply, were going along well at 106-1, but the departure of opener Dylan Church, trapped lbw by Stanley for 69, started a slide to 179-8 by the close.
Stanley, who played in Shropshire’s final two Championship matches last season, took the first seven wickets to fall, including Jack Stearman for 33, before seamer Ben Roberts bowled Jake Goodwin for 26.
Despite Josh Croom’s useful 32 down the order, the Wiltshire innings was soon wrapped up by Stanley early on day two as he took his remarkable haul to nine wickets to leave Wiltshire 220 all out from 68 overs.
Trailing by 37 runs at the halfway stage, Shropshire lost former Worcestershire duo Ollie Westbury and Tom Fell early in their second innings.
But young opener Matt Lamb – one of two Championship debutants, along with Bridgnorth’s Seb Scott, in the Shropshire side – combined well with Bradford for an impressive third-wicket partnership of 107.
Shifnal’s Lamb, who played for the county in the NCCA T20 and Trophy competitions last season, struck a fine 62 from 134 balls, which included a six and seven fours.
Lamb’s efforts – he was one of four teenagers in the Shropshire XI – impressed Home.
“It was brilliant for Matt and we were all very pleased for him,” he said. “Matt did well and for somebody so young to play like that and score his maiden first-team 50 for the county is good news. It bodes well for his development.
“He’s a sensible and grounded young man, a pleasure to have about, so I’m sure he’ll keep on endeavouring to get better. That can only be good for both Matt and Shropshire moving forward.”
Bradford quickly followed Lamb back to the pavilion in the next over for 46.
Wicketkeeper Ben Lees played well for 40, but his departure saw Shropshire fall from a promising 219-6 to 226 all out from 80 overs, with Godsal (3-22), King (3-99) and Ed Young (2-29) among the wickets.
That left Wiltshire chasing 190 for victory and by the close of day two they were well on their way to victory at 74-0 before completing the job the following day.
Openers Jack Mynott and Church put on 127 for the first wicket before Stanley (2-76 from 20 overs) struck twice in the same over, bowling both Mynott, who made 71, and Stearman.
A partnership of 59 for the third wicket followed between Church, who ended unbeaten on 68, and skipper Young, bowled by Shropshire captain Home for 37, as Wiltshire advanced to 190-3 from 46 overs.
Pictured: Joe Stanley claimed an excellent 9-83 for Shropshire in Wiltshire’s first innings at Whitchurch.