Shropshire v Cheshire at Bridgnorth, 10, 11, 12 June, 2012
By Derrick Hastings

Toss won by Cheshire who elected to Field
Shropshire 240 and 259; Cheshire 228 and 183
Shropshire won by 88 runs
Shropshire 22 points – Cheshire 6 points

Cheshire team that played against Shropshire at Bridgnorth
Back row: Khalid Sawas, Lee Dixon, Jonny Fawcett, Calum Rowe and Tom Twiney
Front row: Ross Dixon, Danny Woods, Adam Syddall, Danny Berry and Jonny Kettle

First day

Winning the toss on a still and sunny morning, Cheshire Captain for this match, Adam Syddall, opted to put Shropshire in to bat. In spite of a damp looking outfield, the Shropshire openers Richard Oliver and Shropshire skipper, Ed Foster, put on a brisk 58 in 56 minutes before Danny Berry caught Oliver off the bowling of Syddall for 33. This was the first wicket of a Career Best performance of 8 for 78 by the Captain (Pictured left). Three more wickets fell with the addition of only 20 more runs, justifying the decision to make the hosts bat first. All were LBW decisions with Syddall claiming the three scalps, including that of Bilal Shafayat (ex Nottinghamshire and Northamptonshire and with a contract with Hampshire) for 4.

One of the five debutants for Cheshire in this match, Ian Tait, was the other opening bowler and he was unlucky to have a couple of catches put down off of his bowling, which was well controlled and accurate in line. As a tall bowler, Tait is also quick and his varied length obviously caused problems for the batsmen.

Danny Woods replaced Tait after he had bowled 8 overs, while Syddall continued until he took himself off after 14 overs and Jonny Fawcett, the other Slow Left Armer replaced him.

The fifth wicket pairing of Rob Foster and Jono Whitney were together at lunch and they went on to add a total of 76 runs before the partnership was broken when Whitney was caught by debutant Tom Twiney for 48 with the score on 154. This was another wicket for Syddall.

Rob Foster was the victim of Twiney’s second catch but this time the bowler was Woods when Shropshire was on 184 for 6. Debutant Ross Dixon claimed the next victim, when he lured Alex Blofield out of his crease for Jonny Kettle to make a sharp stumping. The remaining wickets all fell to Syddall with only the ex-Middlesex player Anthony Parker offering any real resistance. He was top scorer for Shropshire with 50 runs. The Captain finished with figures of 24.2 – 7 – 78 – 8, bettering his previous best of 8 for 83, which he achieved three years earlier, also against Shropshire.

Cheshire’s opening partnership of Berry and Kettle put on 66 runs before Berry pulled a ball off his gloves and down on to his wicket after scoring 29. Kettle was then joined by Twiney, who started cautiously and took 14 balls before getting off the mark. Their partnership put on 49 runs before Kettle was bowled by Jonty Mountford with Cheshire’s score on 115 for 2.

Lee Dixon then joined Twiney and, in difficult batting conditions, the pair added 6 runs in 20 minutes before Dixon was caught behind off the bowling of Shafayat for 1. Khalid Sawas, a debutant in Championship cricket although he had played in the two Trophy matches, was them bowled first ball by an unplayable delivery from Shafayat leaving Cheshire on 121 for 4. Calum Rowe, like Sawas, a debutant in Championship cricket, helped to add 27 runs before being caught off the first ball of the last over of the day with the score on 148.

Second day

Unlike the previous day which had started out warm and sunny, only to get ever more overcast and colder as the day progressed, the second day started out grey and damp and never looked like brightening up. However, unlike other washed-out games in the area there was very little rain during the day and not sufficient to interrupt play until about 40 minutes before the scheduled end of play at 7 p.m.

Lee Dixon’s brother Ross came out to start the proceedings with Twiney, who was 22* overnight, but he only lasted 4 balls before becoming Shafayat’s fourth victim. The Captain was Shafayat’s last victim of the innings before the spectators were treated to a couple of cameo innings from Fawcett and Tait, with Woods being the not out batsman at the end of the innings.

The top scorer for Cheshire was Tom Twiney with 44 although his was not the greatest contribution to the total. There were 72 extras, with 48 of them coming from no-balls! The best bowling for Shropshire was by Shafayat who ended up with figures of 18 – 6 – 38 – 5.

The change of weather conditions had obviously affected the bowling conditions since, in Shropshire’s second innings Syddall did not take a wicket but 9 scalps were claimed by Woods (Pictured right leaving the field at the end of the innings). This was the first time in the history of Cheshire County Cricket Club that two lots of 8 or more wickets had been taken in one match. In fact, Woods’ 9 for 74 is only the sixth 9 wicket haul in the history of the Club with the previous one being in 1946! Not only that, he only had help with one of his wickets, when Berry caught the last man. Other than that, Woods bowled out three batsman, trapped four of them leg-before and caught and bowled the other one.

Shropshire started steadily and put on 55 for the first wicket and reached 193 for 4 before the Shropshire Captain, Ed Foster, was LBW for 89, Shropshire’s highest score in the match. Thereafter, there was a tailing off in the scoring rate until the score reached 244 for 6 when Tait at last took his first well-earned wicket, having Whitney caught behind by Kettle for 32. This was followed by a collapse by the lower order.

Rain and bad light finally stopped play with Shropshire on 258 for 9.

Third Day

It was dry but cold when play started at 10:30, half an hour earlier than scheduled to make up for the time lost the previous day and it remained that way for the rest of the day.

Tait took the first over of the day and nearly had Mountford caught in the slips but then, on the fourth ball of Woods’ first over of the day, Danny claimed his ninth wicket.

This left Cheshire requiring 272 runs in 103 overs to win the match. All the batsmen played cautiously when a little more aggression might have taken the initiative away from the bowlers. Although not falling behind the asking rate, the steady fall of wickets meant that nobody really got themselves in. Fortunately for Shropshire, there were nowhere near as many no-balls called. Lee Dixon top scored with 32 before being unluckily adjudged LBW to Bowen. Both Sawas and Ross Dixon broke their Championship ducks in the second innings, with Sawas scoring 25 and Dixon 12.

Shafayat was again the best bowler for Shropshire with figures of 16.4 – 7 – 38 – 5, while Bowen returned 18 – 3 – 71 – 4.

After the match, Adam Syddall said, “Obviously I am delighted with my Personal Best 8-for, on my birthday as well, and I am really pleased that Woodsy got an even better 9-for, although it will cost us both a lot of money. There is a tradition in the Club that whenever a P.B. is achieved, the player has to buy the rest of the team a drink!”

“I was very pleased that the County Club Chairman, John Pickup, was on hand to present the two of us with the match balls in front of the pavilion – but then he took them away from us! I hope we see them again in the future,” he added, grinning.

“Given the inexperience in this new-look side, I think the team did very well, particularly when you realise that Shropshire were fielding probably their strongest side in years with three ex-First Class players in the side. The five debutants all slotted straight into the team and it is a credit to the structure within Cheshire Cricket and, in particular, the Development XI that these players can step up to the mark and hold their own at Minor Counties level.”

He went on to say, “The youngsters will have learnt a lot from this game and this will stand them in good stead in the future. League cricketers are not used to batting for the length of time needed in Championship cricket so it is all a new experience for them. The track didn’t play as well as we had been told it would play here, so it is very creditable that everybody had to knuckle down and concentrate hard to get runs at all. There was a lot of movement in the air and the Dukes balls used in Minor Counties games swing a lot more than those used in league games, which adds to the general difficulty of batting at this level.”

“Bilal Shafayat, although not usually a First Class bowler, showed his experience by making use of the conditions to help the ball seam around. The ball that got Khalid [Sawas] was totally unplayable and he bowled a few of those in this game. I know ‘Bil’ and I don’t mind saying that he was probably as surprised as anyone!”

“We went into the last day with a reasonable chance of winning, but 272 was a big ask and, if we had won, it would have been the biggest innings of the match. This is something that is never easy to achieve.”

In summing up, he said, “I have really enjoyed being Captain and I am grateful for the help given by Woodsy in helping to set the field for the spinners, particularly when I was bowling my long spells in the first innings. It was quite hard work, particularly with the right-hand / left-hand combinations meaning constant field changes, but I think the lads stuck at it really well. Their attitude was brilliant, both during the warm-ups before the game and during the game itself.”