Upbeat Shropshire captain Steve Leach believes his side is growing in confidence as they look forward to facing Cornwall in an attractive clash between the top two teams in the Western Division of the Unicorns Championship.
Shropshire will have home advantage for the three-day clash, which starts at Bridgnorth on Sunday, with Leach’s men seeking a third successive Championship victory having opened the season with wins against Dorset and Oxfordshire.
Cornwall have also won their first two Championship games and are five points above Shropshire in the table.
Opening batsman Leach, enjoying his first season as Shropshire skipper, said: “We’re really happy with our form in the three-dayers. We knew the format would suit us and we took a lot of confidence from what we did last year when we finished third even though we felt we under performed.
“We’ve played really controlled cricket and have just gone about our business quietly. I feel there’s a real confidence in the group now after getting two positive results.
“Oxfordshire have got a good team, some very good players, and they won the Western Division title last season, so we took a lot of confidence from beating them.
“I feel we’re getting a bit of rhythm, a bit of self belief, and this game with Cornwall is going to be a big one with it being first against second.”
Leach anticipates a tough test against Cornwall, a side he holds in high regard: “We didn’t play them last year when they finished second in our group, but going on memory from playing against them the year before they’ve got a good team,” he said.
“Brad Wadlan, a batter who bowls spin as well, is a good player who used to be with Glamorgan, and they’ve got a couple of destructive batsmen so they’re a good all round unit.
“I’ve seen a picture of the Bridgnorth pitch and it looks a belter, so I think it will be a really good three days. We’re really lucky in the county that we’ve got good pitches and Bridgnorth are always very welcoming. They really look after us and it’s a good place for us to go. I always enjoy playing there.”
James Ralph, Leach’s predecessor as county captain, will be playing in familiar surroundings as a Bridgnorth player, and Leach stressed he’s been delighted with Ralph’s contribution both on and off the field
He said: “His experience is really good for us and he’s looked at his best. He’s batted really elegantly, really fluently, and I think having that experience around the group, who’s been there and seen it all for Shropshire over the years, really helps us.”
Leach has also been impressed with the efforts of the county’s two new professionals David Wainwright and Alex Wyatt, who have both shone in the wins against Dorset and Oxfordshire.
“Big Wyatt’s bowled really nicely,” he added. “He’s a real threat up front with the new ball and what’s really promising is he’s been able to bowl long spells. He’s a very patient bowler who just looks to bowl dot balls. He’s been an absolute captain’s dream really from the seam point of view.
“Wainers is an absolute wizard really. He looks a bit like Dynamo the magician and he seems to be bowling a bit like one as well.
“Credit not only to those guys but also the likes of Henry Blofield, Richie Oliver and Sam Griffiths, who all bowled well at Oxfordshire.
“We’ve bowled and batted really well as a unit so, while Wyatt and Wainwright have been the stand-outs in terms of wicket taking, it’s been a real team effort.
“We’ve got good seam, good spin and hopefully we can bat long, so it’s looking really promising and hopefully we can get another positive result against Cornwall.”
The first ball will be bowled at Bridgnorth at 11am on Sunday, with admission free on all three days.
Pictured: Shropshire captain Steve Leach is looking forward to taking on leaders Cornwall at Bridgnorth.