By Stuart Dunn, @studunn21, at The Shrewsbury Chronicle
SHREWSBURY, who just never give up, grabbed an astonishing victory from the jaws of defeat to set up an exciting quarter final tie at home to West Indian Cavaliers in the quarter finals of the ECB National Club Championship.
Missing a host of first team regulars, the players drafted in to the side dug deep as allrounder Steve Barnard delivered a stunning display to seal a dramatic four run win over Northern Premier League Chorley.
It seemed a formality the Lancastrians would progress when, replying to the home side’s 168-8, they were coasting at 145-1 with plenty of time and wickets to play with.
But then Shrewsbury turned the screw, two runs outs in as many balls changing the entire complexion of the tie, and with Barnard and his brother Mike keeping it tight with the ball, Chorley somehow ended short of their target on 164-6.
“It was unbelievable,” admitted delighted captain Rob Foster, one of only four regulars in the team. “They were cruising the game but we just went up a gear in the field really, and Steve’s death bowling along with Mike’s was just outstanding.
“We just gave ourselves the best chance to get a result.
“I didn’t think it was possible at some points in the game until there were four overs to go. We were just outstanding.
“I keep saying to the lads the longer we stay in the game the more chance there is for us.
“The decision to bat first after winning the toss was purely because pressure cricket does funny things to people on days like this, as we saw.
“Chorley should really have won that game but they just imploded through the pressure built by ourselves.”
Steve Barnard, at No 6, cracked an unbeaten 51 to give the hosts a fighting chance as Shrewsbury made 168-8 from their 45 overs. Skipper Foster (38) and Will Parton (29) also contributed.
Chorley, in reply, were sell set thanks to openers David Fisher (54) and Andy Griffiths (43).
Ian Dickinson then added 36 but it was his departure, caught by Steve Leach off Mike Barnard (2-23), which changed the course of the game.
It was the cue for Shrewsbury, roared on by a vocal band of supporters watching from the pavilion balcony, to produce a grandstand finish.
Steve Barnard (1-25), fittingly, bowled the final over and held his nerve, his pace too much for the visiting batsmen to get away.
“Steve was probably the difference in the game,” added Foster. “His death bowling and his knock were superb.
“He’s really stepped up this year and has gone to another level which is really good to see.
“Our team included seven lads who have been in the second team at times this season but they all stepped up. The quality is there throughout for the club and it’s a great feeling to have everyone included and to keep winning.”
Foster’s men are now relishing their last eight tie against Nottingham-based West Indian Cavaliers at London Road on Sunday, August 4 with the visitors able to call on former Notts stars Usman Afzaal and Bilal Shafayat, until recently Shropshire’s pro.
Shrewsbury memorably beat star-studded Cavaliers on their way to becoming national champs in 2011.