It may be 37 years since Shropshire welcomed Somerset and their collection of stars to Wellington in the NatWest Trophy – but the fond memories remain for those involved in such a special occasion.
Twelve months before Shropshire famously beat Yorkshire at St Georges in the same competition, Somerset managed to avoid hitting the headlines for all the wrong reasons by emerging victorious by 87 runs in June 1983.
Shropshire acquitted themselves well against a side captained by Ian Botham and featuring the proven talents of West Indies legends Viv Richards and Joel Garner.
It proved a particularly memorable game for Shropshire all-rounder Brian Perry as the long-serving Wem player received the man of the match award for top scoring with the bat after earlier taking four wickets.
That was some achievement considering the quality of players on display as Shropshire hosted the team from Taunton.
John Hulme, recently appointed as Shropshire CCC chairman, opened the batting for the county alongside John Foster in the first round tie and has no hesitation in describing the Somerset match as “certainly one of the highlights of my cricketing career.”
Just like his team mates, he relished the chance to face such a talented side in front of a big crowd squeezed around the boundary at Orleton Park.
Hulme says: “It was a great occasion, particularly given the fact that a number of the Somerset players had been playing in the World Cup just a couple of weeks earlier.
“It was a great honour and privilege to play against them – an occasion I’ll never forget.
“I remember going to the ground the day before and I was mightily relieved to see that Peter Byram and the Wellington ground staff had been watering the pitch and making sure that there wasn’t a great deal of bounce.
“With Joel Garner in the Somerset attack, I insisted to Peter to try and ensure the ball didn’t rise more than stump high!”
Somerset batted first and totalled 246 from their 60 overs, with the classy Richards leading the way by hitting an effortless 74. He put on 103 for the second wicket with opener Peter Roebuck, who struck 37.
Richards may have actually departed much earlier after being bowled by Steve Ogrizovic, only for the joy of the man who was Shrewsbury Town goalkeeper at the time to be cut short when a no-ball was called.
“That was the stand-out moment from the game,” remembers Hulme. “I’m sure Richards had played a shot. I think the ball nipped back and his leg stump just cartwheeled out of the ground. It was a magnificent sight. I will always remember that.
“It was ultimately a moment of great disappointment for Steve as it would have been very much a prized scalp. Steve was genuinely quick and not pleasant to face on his day.
“Peter Roebuck played a well composed innings. He was in for a while and I think there was a controversial decision which went in his favour, which didn’t best please DS de Silva.”
Shropshire’s Sri Lankan leg spinner de Silva did eventually remove Roebuck and also claimed the key wicket of star man Richards, caught by Peter Dawson, in taking 2-30 from a dozen overs.
Dawson and Duncan Perry – one of five Shrewsbury players in the Shropshire XI – also helped themselves to two wickets, but Shropshire’s stand-out performer with the ball was skipper Perry, whose haul of 4-39 from 11 overs included the wicket of Botham, caught in the deep by Bryan Jones for 16.
Added to his later efforts with the bat, it was some performance by the popular Perry, a stalwart of the county side for many years, as he led by example.
As Hulme acknowledges: “The man of the match award was very much deserved because he top scored and took four wickets. Brian was a warrior. He would play through injury, he was never fazed and he would always keep going.
“He was a true competitor, a dangerous player coming in towards mid to late order.
“An unconventional batsman in many respects, but he was a magnificent servant for Shropshire cricket and a great character with a very dry sense of humour.”
Hulme ensured he was well prepared when he walked out to open the Shropshire innings with club mate Foster against a Somerset attack led by six-foot-eight Garner, renowned as one of the world’s best bowlers.
“I remember going for a net the day before the game at Shrewsbury School as I had bought a helmet about a week before,” he says.
“There weren’t many people in club cricket wearing helmets in those days, but I thought discretion might be the better part of valour given the quality of the Somerset attack. I tried it out in a friendly match for Shrewsbury against Madeley on the Sunday before. It was probably only the third occasion I had worn a helmet.
“Garner was a giant of a man and he bowled a long sustained spell at the beginning of the innings.
“I managed somehow to survive the opening spell and then whether it was a moment of relaxation, I was out, caught by Joel Garner at square leg off Vic Marks.
“Perhaps my concentration slipped as I swept the ball off the stumps. It was very low down. I thought I had got away with it, only for Garner to catch it with ease.”
Garner, who took 3-19 from nine overs, had a hand in the departure of Shropshire’s top four, catching Hulme off the bowling of England spinner Marks just after tea with the left-hander on 10, while he also dismissed Foster, Jones and former Worcestershire batsman Cedric Boyns to leave the hosts up against it at 44-4.
A combination of rain and bad light meant the match was unable to be completed in one day, so the players reported to Wellington once more the following morning as Shropshire resumed on 125-6.
Despite a defiant 43 from skipper Perry – de Silva, another man fresh from World Cup duty, weighed in with 24 to be the next highest scorer – Shropshire were eventually dismissed for 159.
Somerset went on to win the NatWest Trophy in 1983, beating Kent at Lord’s in the final, a successful conclusion to a run which had started in Wellington, while Shropshire’s big moment in the competition would arrive 12 months later at Yorkshire’s expense.
“Shropshire had some great occasions in the competition under its various names,” adds Hulme, who enjoyed a trip down memory lane with David Shepherd, a former Gloucestershire team mate, who was one of the umpires for the Somerset game.
“Yorkshire played at Wellington in 1976 and returned, of course, in 1984 when Shropshire famously beat them at St Georges. That was a really memorable day.
“Shropshire also played against other strong sides of their day, including Essex, Hampshire, Middlesex, Gloucestershire, Surrey, Sussex and Warwickshire, all winners of the trophy in its various guises.
“They were great days and it would be lovely to see a return of those fixtures at a competitive level because it was a wonderful opportunity for Minor Counties cricketers to play against first-class opposition.
“It was cricket’s equivalent of the FA Cup in many respects and it gave the chance for club cricketers to play against top counties and Test players. Over the years there were a number of upsets. The inclusion of the Minor Counties sides always added spice and a sense of romanticism to the game’s major, domestic one-day competition.”
Click on this link below for the scorecard from the Shropshire v Somerset NatWest Trophy first round tie from June 1983:
Report by Stuart Dunn
Picture: John Hulme watches on from the non-striker’s end as Joel Garner bowls to John Foster during Shropshire’s memorable NatWest Trophy first round tie against Somerset at Wellington in June 1983.