Karl Krikken, Shropshire’s director of cricket, insisted the county have time to revive their Unicorns Knockout Trophy hopes after opening the season with an eight-wicket defeat against Staffordshire.
Visiting skipper Kadeer Ali, the former Worcestershire and Gloucestershire man, starred with bat and ball as Shropshire were unable to build on a promising start after being asked to bat first at Shrewsbury’s London Road ground.
Led by a half century from England under-19 opener Ollie Westbury, Shropshire looked set to post a competitive total when well placed at 105-1.
But Staffordshire’s bowlers had other ideas, taking the last nine wickets for the addition of just 55 runs as Shropshire were dismissed for 160 off the first ball of the 47th over.
Ali then cracked an unbeaten 80 as Staffordshire, in reply, raced to 161-2 inside 33 overs to wrap up victory by 5pm.
Shropshire have a quick chance to make amends when they travel to Oxton to face Cheshire in their second group match next Sunday. They will follow it up with clashes against Wales and Herefordshire.
Krikken said: “It’s obviously disappointing but it’s not the end of our one-day season, it’s the first game in. We’ve played a side that got to the final last year and lost to Herefordshire.
“From where we were, for the first three-fifths of our innings, everything was going to plan, 105-1 with more than 20 overs left. You expect to get over 200 at least, 220, 240, and then it’s a decent total to defend, but unfortunately that wasn’t the case and it was just a bit tentative really.”
There was no sign of the collapse to come when openers Westbury and Steve Leach put on 57 before skipper Leach was first man out, trapped lbw by Dan Richardson for 30.
Worcestershire prospect Westbury, who plays his club cricket for Shrewsbury, was joined in the middle by Charlie Home and together they took the score into three figures before Shifnal all-rounder Home was bowled by Alex Thomson for 17.
That prompted a flurry of wickets with Will Parton and David Wainwright both quickly removed by visiting captain Kadeer Ali (3-32) before key man Westbury, having hit 62 from 101 balls, was stumped by Tom Ball off Thomson to leave Shropshire in trouble at 119-5.
Jack McIver was the only other home batsman to reach double figures before he was last man out for 22, bowled by Brinder Phagura (3-32).
Shropshire needed quick wickets when Staffordshire began their replay but openers Ali and Aneesh Kapil had other ideas as they quickly put 50 on the board within eight overs.
Young Shrewsbury all-rounder Dillon Pennington, one of three debutants in the home side, made a much-needed breakthrough in the 11th over, bowling ex-Surrey man Kapil for 23.
Staffordshire lost a second wicket with the score on 95 when Home took a catch at mid-wicket off left-arm spinner Wainwright to get rid of Tim Maxfield for 16.
But the classy Ali, supported by Paul Wilshaw (29no), continued to lead from the front and ended unbeaten on 80, from 96 balls, hitting three sixes and six fours in the process.
Pictured: Shropshire face the camera ahead of their opening game of the season against Staffordshire, back from left: Karl Krikken (director of cricket), Will Parton, Jack McIver, Dillon Pennington, Alex Wyatt, Chris Russell, Ollie Westbury, Bryan Jones (chairman of selectors); front: Charlie Home, Ross Aucott, Steve Leach (captain), David Wainwright, George Hargrave, Ryan Lockley.