Steve Leach

First class West Brom in convincing victory

TWO batsmen with plenty of experience of first class cricket took the game away from Shrewsbury as they were well beaten by eight wickets by a side on course to succeed them as Birmingham League champions.

Shrewsbury had no complaints after losing heavily by eight wickets at in-form leaders West Bromwich Dartmouth.

Steve Leach carried his bat for an unbeaten 77 as Shrewsbury lost their way following a bright start to be pegged back to 191-7.

Then former Gloucestershire batsman Kadeer Ali and current Warwickshire star Ateeq Javed put on 135 for the second wicket as the table-toppers made light work of their chase, easing to 192-2 with more than a dozen overs to spare.

Shrewsbury remain in the wilderness of mid-table as they get ready to host top four side Brockhampton on Saturday, a match which will see the return of captain Rob Foster, unavailable last weekend.

Tom Cox, stand-in skipper in his absence, opted to bat first on winning the toss at West Bromwich and it seemed to be a wise decision when Shrewsbury advanced to 92-1.

Leach and Ed Foster, who made 43, put on 77 for the first wicket and Shrewsbury were looking good until the departure of Worcestershire’s Joe Leach for nine prompted a collapse to 118-5 which was instigated by spinner Aqsad Ali who eventually claimed 6-51 from 17 overs.

Ed Barnard, Cox, Anthony Parker and Dewi Jones also quickly perished for single figure scores as Shropshire opener Leach watched on from the other end.

He ended unbeaten on 77 from 153 balls, hitting seven boundaries, receiving some support down the order from Mike Barnard (25) as Shrewsbury were unable to reach 200.

“He’s had a tough year, but he really showed his quality,” said Ed Foster, of his fellow opener Leach. “It was tricky at times and as the wickets fell he kept going.

“We felt our score was a strong total but probably 20 or 30 runs short of being really competitive.

“Four of the five bowlers they used were spinners and probably 50 of the 55 overs were spin which took us a little by surprise. They had a plan and stuck to it well.”

West Bromwich, emphatic winners at London Road on the opening day of the season when Shrewsbury were skittled for just 83, set about their chase with relish.

Opener Ali, the brother of England new boy Moeen and Whitchurch captain Omar, showed why he enjoyed a career in first class cricket with Worcestershire, Leicestershire and Gloucestershire by hitting a six and 14 boundaries on his way to 92 from 128 balls.

He missed out on a century when he was caught behind by Parker off Wales Minor Counties paceman Jones.

Ali was well supported at the other end by current Edgbaston regular Javid who marked his seasonal bow for West Bromwich with an unbeaten 69 as the leaders got home with plenty to spare.

“It’s always tough when you come up against two professionals with lots of first class runs who are playing well,” added Foster.

“Kadeer Ali has got plenty of first class centuries and that can be forgotten sometimes as we’ve played against him quite often now, but he’s one of the best players in the league.

“We felt Ateeq Javid should have been given out stumped off Elliot Green when he had about 15 but he wasn’t and he went on to play very well.

“It goes to show what a strong league this is when you come up against players like that.

“The result probably looks worse than it actually was and it should be remembered West Bromwich are a very good side who played the conditions well.”

Meanwhile, there was better news for SHREWSBURY II, bottom of the Birmingham League’s premier reserve division, as they enjoyed one of their better days this season by picking up 15 points from a winning draw at home to Harborne II.

Shrewsbury rattled up an imposing 277 all out before restricting Harbone to 165-8.

The highlight for Shrewsbury was a brilliant 130 from Shropshire all-rounder Alex Blofield whose first team availability has been limited this season.

Shrewsbury’s second string head to Herefordshire to take on fifth-placed Brockhampton II on Saturday.