Rob Foster collects the Birmingham League trophy in 2013

Williamson Trophy win caps memorable season

By Stuart Dunn, @studunn21, at The Shrewsbury Chronicle

SHREWSBURY’S brilliant season ended on a suitably positive note as they became Birmingham League record breakers before lifting the Graham Williamson Trophy yet again.

Rob Foster’s runaway champions saw off Wombourne by five wickets in their final premier division encounter to end the season with a new top flight record high of 378 points.

Then, just for good measure, Shrewsbury saw off Barnt Green by 32 runs in a rain-affected Graham Williamson Trophy final at London Road on Sunday to win the competition for the fourth successive year.

Shrewsbury ultimately finished a mighty 91 points clear at the top of the premier division after ending their season of dominance with another win, their 14th outright victory from 22 league games.

“Breaking the points record was a nice motivation to have going into the last game,” admitted Foster. “It’s been a fantastic season and we’ve ended up playing 43 games in all competitions.

“It’s been a long season but it’s been well worthwhile.”

Relegated Wombourne were their final league victims, not that Shrewsbury had it all their own way before running out five-wicket winners.

Sam Griffiths, the former Shelton paceman now a key part of Shrewsbury’s bowling attack, helped himself to 4-15 as Wombourne were removed for 116 inside 35 overs.

There was also some joy with the ball for spinners Elliot Green (2-21) and Alex Blofield (2-49).

Shrewsbury, in reply, were soon in trouble at 44-5 and an upset looked on the cards.

But then skipper Foster (40no) joined forces with 14-year-old first team debutant George Hargrave (32no) to put on an unbroken stand of 72 for the sixth wicket as Shrewsbury advanced to 118-5.

“Wombourne bowled very well with the new ball and got some good genuine wickets,” said Foster. “But fortunately myself and young George Hargrave, a late call up to replace Tom Cox, managed to then put a partnership together.

“George batted fantastically well and showed real maturity for a 14-year-old making his debut for the first team.

“He’s quite a small lad but he’s a good player, very keen cricketer and is already part of the Warwickshire Academy. He did really well.”

Shrewsbury then dug deep into their selection reserves 24 hours later with a host of regulars unavailable for the Williamson Trophy final against Barnt Green.

Shrewsbury totalled 155-3 from their reduced allocation of 20 overs before Barnt Green, eventually set a revised victory target of 186 in 18 overs, pulled up short on 154-8.

Will Parton (47), Joe Leach (44) and the big hitting Matt Gregson (35no) put bat to ball effectively for Shrewsbury who were flying at 70-0 off 10 overs before a rain delay restricted their innings to 20 overs.

Duckworth Lewis calculations initially set Barnt Green a 20 over target of 208 but more rain cut that to 187 from 18 and they ended up 32 runs short, Griffiths completing a good weekend by taking a couple more wickets.

“It’s the fourth year in a row we’ve won this competition and we’re proud to have kept the run going,” added Foster.

Meanwhile, Shrewsbury’s Worcestershire all-rounder Joe Leach achieved two notable milestones for the London Road club against Wombourne.

Leach took his 100th Birmingham League wicket for the club at 18 apiece and also passed 2,000 league runs. He averages just over 30 with the bat in the premier division.

Steve Leach

Leach ton can’t save Shrewsbury from defeat

By Stuart Dunn, @studunn21, at The Shrewsbury Chronicle

STEVE LEACH once more underlined his potential to be a professional cricketer by hitting his third century of the season, but it was not enough to save Birmingham League premier division champions Shrewsbury from sliding to a rare defeat.

Promising opener Leach, 19, who asked to be released from his Worcestershire contract earlier this season, was at his brilliant best once again as he broke through the 800 run barrier in the Birmingham League this year with another polished knock.

But hosts West Bromwich Dartmouth chased well to seal a six-wicket win at Sandwell Park, reaching their target with eight balls to spare.

It was only a third league defeat of the season for Shrewsbury who are 74 points clear at the top of the table ahead of Saturday’s final match of the campaign at home to relegated Wombourne.

One more victory will see Shrewsbury set a new record points total for any team in a premier division season.

Skipper Rob Foster was disappointed with the result but delighted with the efforts of Leach who recently struck a century in a trial game for Warwickshire’s 2nd XI.

“Steve was outstanding again,” said Foster. “He’s playing really well and his hundred was even more impressive given it was a tough wicket.

“He’s done fantastically well for us this season, scoring more than 800 league runs, and there surely has to be a few first class counties taking note of that.”

Batting first, Shrewsbury were struggling at 82-5 until Leach and skipper Foster joined forces to put on 114 for the sixth wicket.

Leach led the way with an excellent 113 to take his tally of league runs for the season to 819.

And he was well supported by Foster, at No 7, who hit an unbeaten 54 as Shrewsbury posted 211-8 from their 50 overs.

West Bromwich, in reply, were also well served by a three figure partnership with regular Warwickshire first teamer Ateeq Javed, in good touch for 77, and Zeeshan Arif (47no) laying the foundations for the hosts to advance to 214-4.

Mike Barnard grabbed 2-46 but this time Shrewsbury were unable to come out on top.

“It was disappointing to lose as we don’t like losing any game,” stressed skipper Foster. “It’s been a long season and, for us, it did have a very end of season feel to it.

“We might have lost the game but there was also still a very good chance to could have won it.

“They always had a few wickets in hand but it was closer than the result might suggest.

“Their overseas player hit a few sixes towards the end and Ateeq Javed played well, but he’s a guy who’s just recently scored a first class hundred.

“We had Joe Leach back playing for us so again it shows the standard of cricket we’re playing at, a Warwickshire player up against a Worcestershire player.”

Shrewsbury now want to sign off their successful season in style at the expense of Wombourne on Saturday before hosting Barnt Green in the final of the Graham Williamson Trophy 24 hours later.

Steve Leach

Shrewsbury seek double celebration

By Stuart Dunn, @studunn21, at The Shrewsbury Chronicle

SHREWSBURY’S cricketers are seeking a double celebration as they bring the curtain down on their successful season this weekend.

The London Roaders, who wrapped up the Birmingham League title with three games to spare, know victory in Saturday’s final premier division game at home to relegated Wombourne will see them set a new record high points total by any team in top flight history.

Then they take on Barnt Green, once again with home advantage, in the Graham Williamson Trophy final (12.30pm).

“We’ve won this competition three years on the trot,” said captain Rob Foster. “It would be nice to make it four and end the season with another trophy.”

Shrewsbury received a bye through to the final after Berkswell, their scheduled semi-final opponents, were unable to play on any of the dates offered them by the Birmingham League.

If Shrewsbury are to get their hands of yet more silverware, their strength in depth will need to come into its own as openers Ed Foster and Steve Leach – who have both hit more than 800 league runs this season – are unavailable for Sunday’s Trophy final.

Wicketkeeper Anthony Parker and all-rounder Alex Blofield are among the other non-starters as Shrewsbury’s selection options are stretched.

Foster is also keen for his side end their excellent league campaign with another positive result against Wombourne, particularly as Shrewsbury tasted defeat for just the third time this season at West Bromwich Dartmouth last weekend.

“We would love to finish with another win,” added the skipper.

SHREWSBURY (v Wombourne), from: E Foster, S Leach, J Leach, T Cox, R Foster, A Parker, A Blofield, S Barnard, E Green, S Griffiths, M Barnard, W Parton, D Manders.

Anthony Parker

Parker sets record as Shrewsbury collect trophy

By Stuart Dunn, @studunn21, at The Shrewsbury Chronicle

CHAMPIONS Shrewsbury are now a massive 90 points clear at the top of the Birmingham Cricket League’s premier division after handing out a nine-wicket beating to Brockhampton just before skipper Rob Foster was presented with the title trophy.

And it was also a rewarding day for consistent wicketkeeper Anthony Parker as he set a new club Birmingham League record for the most dismissals in a season.

It was another dominant display from the London Roaders with England under-19 star Ed Barnard making a pleasing return to first team action following a long injury lay-off.

Opening batsman Steve Leach again underlined his promise with another fine knock, Steve Barnard bowled sharply to claim four wickets and then there was wicketkeeper Parker’s record.

The Shropshire glovesman, who ended a long association with Shifnal to join Shrewsbury this season, held on to three catches and completed a sharp stumping to take his number of league victims this term to 35.

It broke the previous club record of 32 dismissals achieved by Jack Brydon in the 2008 season with Parker’s contribution highlighted by skipper Foster.

He always knew Parker would add much to the Shrewsbury side which is why he was so pleased to entice him to London Road as a replacement for popular South African Ryan Bishop.

“It just shows how well he has kept,” said Foster. “He’s been superb behind the stumps and I can’t think of anything he’s missed all season.

“He’s been a great addition and has changed the dynamic of our side as he’s just got that X-factor down the order when he bats that takes games away from people while behind the stumps he’s a proven winner.

“Bish was a tough act to follow, but he’s done very well.”

Brockhampton, one of only two teams to have beated Shrewsbury in the league this season, never looked like conjuring up a repeat once Steve Barnard (4-38) reduced them to 44-4.

Ben Stebbings (46) and Dave Exall (25), two of Brock’s many Herefordshire Minor Counties regulars, attempted to lead a fightback, but Shrewsbury were always on top as they removed the visitors for 136.

There were also wickets for Sam Griffiths (2-24), Dan Manders (2-35) and Mike Barnard (2-37).

Shrewsbury, in reply, quickly lost Ed Foster for 12, but not before he had broken his own Birmingham League record of runs in a season. He now has 857 this year.

That brought together teenagers Steve Leach and Ed Barnard and they shared in an unbroken second-wicket stand of 111 as Shrewsbury eased to 139-1 and 20 more points against a side who had started the day in second place in the table.

Leach carried his bat for an unbeaten 61 from 106 balls, passing 700 league runs for the season in the process, while Barnard played like he had never been away for 46 not out.

Skipper Foster, whose side head to West Bromwich Dartmouth on Saturday, hailed it as a another complete team performance.

“Steve Barnard really led the way with the ball, taking four quality wickets, and he was well backed up,” he said. “Then the batting was just clinical with Steve Leach superb again and so was Ed Barnard. It was very pleasing for everyone to see him back in a Shrewsbury shirt.”

Meanwhile, a day after being presented with the Birmingham League championship trophy, Shrewsbury skipper Rob Foster took delivery of more silverware as he lifted the Salop Leisure Twenty20 prize.

Shrewsbury, no strangers to success in the popular annual competition held at their London Road headquarters, beat Oswestry comfortably in the semi finals before seeing off Shifnal, last four conquerors of Whitchurch, in the final.

Sam Griffiths was the leading light for the county towners in the semi final, snaring 4-13, while there was also some success for Ed Foster (2-7) and Alex Johnson (2-18) as Oswestry were bowled out for 69.

Shrewsbury then eased to 71-3 inside nine overs with Brockhampton captain Ben Stebbings, their one permitted guest player, hitting an unbeaten 47.

That set up a Shrewsbury v Shifnal final later in the day and the hosts prevailed by six wickets.

Shifnal batted first and decent contributions from their South African guest Morne Heyneke (39), who captains Brewood, and Simon Gregory (30) pushed the total up to 134-9 from their 20 overs.

Mike Barnard (3-20) and Dan Manders (3-28) bowled well for Shrewsbury while ex-Cound man Johnson removed county captain Richard Oliver for just five.

Shrewsbury then chased well to reach 136-4 with 20 balls to spare as Will Parton (39no), Ed Foster (32) and Steve Barnard (17no) led the way.

Ed Barnard

Foster happy to have Ed Barnard back

By Stuart Dunn, @studunn21, at The Shrewsbury Chronicle

ENGLAND under-19 star Ed Barnard’s welcome return from injury has added to the feelgood factor sweeping Shrewsbury as they chase a new Birmingham Cricket League record for the most points recorded by a team in a premier division season..

Barnard, 17, enjoyed a pleasing comeback from a long-term injury absence by hitting an unbeaten 46 as champions Shrewsbury hammered Brockhampton last weekend.

With two games of the season remaining, Shrewsbury now sit a mighty 90 points clear at the top of the table.

And should they sign off with two more victories, at West Bromwich Dartmouth on Saturday and at home to relegated Wombourne the following weekend, they would break the record for the highest points total ever achieved by a top flight club in the history of the Birmingham League.

That’s currently held by Knowle & Dorridge who put 374 points on the board in winning the title in 2009.

Shrewsbury currently have 354 points although their tally has been enhanced by half the games this term being played in a win-lose format.

“We just want to win the last two and finish as well as we can,” said captain Rob Foster, who welcomes leg spinner Elliot Green back from injury in place of Dan Manders on Saturday.

Foster stressed he was delighted to have exciting teenage all-rounder Barnard available again following a season ravaged by injury owing to a stress fracture in his lower back.

His lay off came at a particularly unfortunate time for the Shrewsbury School pupil who had been hoping to consolidate his place in the England under-19 team following a successful winter tour to South Africa in which he scored a century on his Youth Test debut in Cape Town.

“Ed’s missed effectively the whole season and everyone was saying how good he looked against Brockhampton,” said Foster.
“That’s why he’s an England under-19 player as he looked superb and that’s really pleasing.

“It would be nice for Ed to show how good he is really in the last couple of games of the season and why we all think so highly of him.

“He played a lot of cricket over the winter and he trained and worked so hard.

“I would imagine it’s been very frustrating for Ed but it’s also probably been good to have a little bit of a step back.

“It’s made him realise just how much he loves playing the game and sometimes it’s not a bad thing to have a little step back.”

Foster added he was hopeful his older brother Ed, Shrewsbury’s consistent opener, could still push to hit 1,000 Birmingham League runs in a season for the first time.

He has currently plundered 857 league runs, his best ever summer, at an average of just over 46.

“By his standards, he’s not got a lot of runs the last two or three games,” said the skipper. “But he will be hoping for a big finish in the last two matches to see if he can push towards 1,000 league runs. That would be a great milestone for him.

“He’s been outstanding this year and has won us a lot of games with the bat.”

SHREWSBURY: E Foster, S Leach, E Barnard, T Cox, R Foster, A Parker, A Blofield, S Barnard, E Green, M Barnard, S Griffiths.