Experienced Shropshire captain James Ralph has urged his young side to relax and express themselves ahead of the start of the county’s Unicorns Trophy campaign this weekend.
Shropshire open their group fixtures with a clash against Cumberland at Shrewsbury’s London Road ground on Sunday.
They will follow it with trips to Cheshire and Lincolnshire either side of taking on Northumberland at Oswestry on May 3. The top two teams in the group will progress to the quarter finals of a competition Shropshire memorably won at Durham CCC’s Riverside ground in 2010.
“We’re all looking forward to the start of the season and it’s all very positive,” said Ralph, the Bridgnorth skipper who took over the county captaincy for a second time midway through last season.
“We’ve had regular winter net sessions, we’ve kept the same players together and hopefully the young players who came into the side last year will take confidence from how well they performed.
“I feel we’ve got a side that can compete in the three-day competition this year and we want to use the one-day competition as a springboard to take us forward.
“Winning is a good habit to get into and we want to continue as the same tight unit we were towards the end of last season.
“We’ve got good players and I just want them to enjoy it, express themselves, embrace the challenge and if that happens we will hopefully be competitive and win games.”
Professionals Ben Sanderson and Gurman Randhawa, the former Yorkshire duo, will both be looking to build on consistently impressive performances with the ball last season, with Ralph, 39, labelling them as the best paceman and spinner respectively in Minor Counties cricket.
He’s hopeful that Shropshire youngsters Joe Clarke and Ed Barnard, now both with Worcestershire, will be able to play some part in the county’s immediate one-day plans depending on the England under-19 international pair’s New Road commitments.
Enjoying working alongside Shropshire coach Karl Krikken, the former Derbyshire stalwart, Ralph insists there is much to look forward to ahead of a clash with a Cumberland side captained by Gary Pratt, the ex-Durham man best known for running out Australia captain Ricky Ponting as a substitute fielder for England during the 2005 Ashes series at Trent Bridge.
“We seem to have done well historically against Cumberland,” added Ralph. “Hopefully that can continue and we make a good start to the season.”
The first ball at Shrewsbury will be bowled at 11am on Sunday and admission is free.