Shropshire secured their opening win of the National Counties Cricket Association season in style by impressively beating Staffordshire by 14 runs in the second game of their T20 double-header at Whitchurch.
After being edged out by five wickets with eight balls to spare by Staffordshire in Sunday’s opening fixture, Shropshire responded well to win the second contest.
Opener Andre Bradford carried his bat to hit an unbeaten 87 before seamers Charlie Walker and Martin Boyle shared seven wickets to inspire Shropshire to victory.
Vice-captain Sam Whitney was delighted with Shropshire’s efforts, with the win setting them up nicely for a busy Bank Holiday weekend.
They will follow up two matches against Cumbria at Netherfield on Sunday by making a quick return to Whitchurch to play Northumberland twice 24 hours later as they complete their group fixtures.
“We will just go into it full of confidence,” said Whitney. “I think we’re going to improve every game and hopefully we will finish the Twenty20 group on a high note.
“You never know, two wins next Sunday might put us in good stead, and the beauty of Twenty20 cricket is anything can happen.”
Shropshire had started their T20 campaign with two defeats at Cheshire, but this time they ensured it was honours even against a Staffordshire side boosted by two wins in their opening fixtures against Northumberland.
Whitney felt Shropshire took confidence from running Staffordshire close in Sunday’s opener and that helped them achieve victory when the teams met for a second time later in the day.
Bradford, who signed for the county at the start of the new season, was in excellent form as he helped Shropshire, having elected to bat, accumulate 145-4 from their 20 overs.
Bradford struck three sixes and six fours on his way to compiling an unbeaten 87 from 61 balls, with Mahaaz Ahmed claiming 2-24 for the visitors.
Staffordshire, in reply, were well placed at 88-1 at the end of the 11th over, but then wickets started to fall regularly and they ended short of their target on 131-7.
Former Worcestershire and Nottinghamshire batter Riki Wessels hit 58 from 47 balls, with Zen Malik, the Staffordshire captain, making 30.
Both were bowled by impressive Madeley seamer Boyle (3-16), while another of Shropshire’s seamers, 18-year-old Walker, who plays for Bridgnorth, also excelled to take 4-21.
Whitney, the vice-captain to Graham Wagg, said: “Andre batted brilliantly and took his form on from last week when he got 50 against Cheshire.
“This time he carried his bat and the guys supported him. He batted beautifully and the tempo of the innings was great.
“We knew after bowling in the first game that 145 was a very competitive total and I think the wicket just suited our bowlers.”
Whitney highlighted the contribution with the ball of both Walker and Boyle as they consistently troubled the visitors.
“It was fantastic for Charlie,” he said. “He’s only bowled a handful of overs for Bridgnorth this year, but you can throw him the ball in any situation and he doesn’t hide away from it.
“I’m so happy for him because he’s a great lad and he works really hard, so he deserves it.
“I’m also really pleased for Martin and what I really enjoyed was Graham showing faith in him by giving Martin the second-last over to bowl.
“Martin just bowled full and straight and for him to get the wickets of Zen Malik, who’s a very good player, and then Riki Wessels as well was great.
“For Charlie and Martin to share seven wickets and for us to get the win was brilliant.
“There were contributions throughout the side as I thought Matty Simmonds bowled fantastic in both games and Tyler Ibbotson as well.”
The day’s opening match at Heath Road saw Shropshire, having elected to bat once again, total 109-9.
Bradford top scored with 21 before being one of three players in the top order to be run out, while former Yorkshire bowler Sam Wisniewski took 3-22 for the visitors.
Staffordshire were made to work hard in their successful chase as they progressed to 113-5 with eight balls to spare.
Louis Allison (30) and Ahmed (24no) led the way with the bat, as spinners Ibbotson (2-12) and Whitney (2-25) – who opened the bowling for Shropshire in both games – enjoyed some reward with the ball.
Whitney added: “We were below par in the first game, but we showed a bit of fight.
“Had a couple of things gone our way we could have took it down to the last over and anything could have happened, so we gained a lot of confidence from that.
“Knowing we could compete with Staffordshire meant we showed no fear going into the second game.”
Pictured: Shropshire line up at Whitchurch where they won one and lost one of their T20 matches against Staffordshire, back from left: Matty Simmonds, Graham Wagg, Charlie Walker, Martin Boyle, Ben Roberts, Sam Whitney, Ben Lees; front: Tyler Ibbotson, Andre Bradford, James Shaw, Harry Darley, Ryan Lockley.