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.