Shropshire’s NCCA Championship season opened with a seven-wicket defeat against Herefordshire – with Director of Cricket John Abrahams now looking for a positive response from his side as they prepare for the next three-day match against Wales.
Herefordshire put themselves in a strong position on the opening day at Shifnal, posting a competitive total of 347-9.
Shropshire were then bowled out for 149 and – after Herefordshire had enforced the follow on – 307 in their second innings, leaving the visitors a target of 110 to complete victory, which they managed on the final afternoon.
Abrahams said: “We weren’t as disciplined and patient as we could and should have been in Herefordshire’s first innings and we allowed their batsmen to release the pressure by bowling a boundary ball most overs.
“We had a good start on Sunday morning, they came back and played well in the afternoon, and then in the third session on the first day we responded really well, restricted them scoring runs, which contributed to us taking wickets.
“Batting wise, we repeated mistakes that we made in the 50-over competition earlier in the season by not being as tight as we could when playing our shots and, on occasion, gifting our wickets to the opposition, so that was disappointing.
“On the positive front, the batting showed more grit and application in the second innings and we had some decent contributions, with 50s from Simon Gregory and Graham Wagg, while Xavier Clarke and Matty Simmonds both made 40s.
“But in order for us to be competitive, those 40s and 50s need to be turned into 80s and 100s. That’s what we’re aiming for.”
Shropshire started the third and final day on 230-7, a lead of 32 runs.
Matty Simmonds (40) and David Laird (30) put on 65 for the eighth wicket – Shropshire’s best partnership of the match – before Herefordshire skipper Matt Pardoe struck twice in the same over as 294-7 quickly became 294-9.
Laird was stumped by wicketkeeper Ian Bullock off Pardoe and then the same combination struck again, Bullock taking a catch off Pardoe (4-50) to remove Lewis Evans, one of two promising youngsters, along with Charlie Walker, handed their first-team debuts by Shropshire.
Bridgnorth all-rounder Simmonds helped ensure the home side’s lead was extended to three figures before being last man out when he was bowled by James Rudge (3-39) to leave Shropshire 307 all out.
That set Herefordshire a victory target of 110 and, although they quickly lost Pardoe, they were well on their way by lunch after advancing to 40-1.
Spinner Simmonds (2-36) then struck twice in quick succession, dismissing Ben Chapman-Lilley (32), who had struck an excellent century in the first innings, caught and bowled, before also claiming the wicket of Zain Ul Hassan to reduce the visitors to 55-3.
But Nick Hammond (44no) and Connor Smith (30no) teamed up to see the job through as Herefordshire, who have won both of their opening Championship matches this season, progressed to 110-3 inside 24 overs.
Having elected to bat, Herefordshire accumulated 347-9 on the opening day.
Opener Chapman-Lilley led the way with a fine century, eventually departing for 125 off 252 balls, which included 11 fours.
He put on 134 for the fifth wicket with Smith (68) while Hammond added 31, with Sam Ellis (3-62), Wagg (3-80) and Simmonds (2-84) among the wickets for Shropshire.
The hosts, 40-2 overnight, lost wickets regularly as they were bowled out for 149 just after lunch on day two.
Ellis top scored with 40, but Xavier Clarke was the only other man to reach 20, with Rudge (4-35), Alex Russell (3-7) and Barney Morgan (2-22) impressing with the ball for Herefordshire.
With Shropshire trailing by 198 runs, Herefordshire enforced the follow on.
A second-wicket partnership of 61 between Clarke (46), playing at his home club ground, and Ryan Lockley (24) was followed by 53 from Simon Gregory.
But Herefordshire continued to take wickets at key moments, including just before the end of the second day when Awais Mohammed bowled Wagg for 65.
Abrahams thanked Shifnal Cricket Club for their hospitality and the hard work put in to stage Shropshire’s opening Championship match of the season.
Shropshire are quickly back in action as their next three-day match against Wales starts at Abergavenny on Sunday.
Pictured: Shifnal Cricket Club hosted Shropshire’s opening NCCA Championship match of the season against Herefordshire.