By Stuart Dunn, @studunn21, at The Shrewsbury Chronicle
ROB FOSTER was all smiles after Steve Barnard’s late heroics with the bat kept Shrewsbury right on course to be crowned Birmingham League champions.
Two more victories over a busy Bank Holiday weekend which takes Shrewsbury to Wolverhampton on Saturday before hosting Walsall on Monday would take the London Roaders to the brink of title glory.
The ice cool Barnard hit a six and then a four from the final two balls of a dramatic premier division clash as Shrewsbury just about reached their revised victory target after several rain interruptions to seal a hard-earned two-wicket verdict over Walmley.
Joe Leach, Shrewsbury’s Worcestershire all-rounder, had earlier underlined his first class credentials by bowling sharply to take six wickets.
But it was the way in which Barnard stayed focused to secure another priceless victory which really delighted skipper Foster and the watching spectators, among them James Taylor, the Nottinghamshire and England batsman, and Shrewsbury’s high profile contracted player.
“It was nerve racking at the end,” said Foster. “We were far from our best so it’s always nice to win. Steve Barnard was magic really at the end, hitting the winning runs.
“It’s the second time this season against Walmley that we quite comfortably could have lost so it was great to win to keep our lead at the top, especially as Brockhampton also won.
“It’s a big result as it keeps us 55 points ahead with 100 points to play for.
“It’s massively in our hands so we just need to turn up and perform a bit better than we did against “Walmley.”
Walmley batted first and a 174 run stand for the fourth wicket between former Warwickshire and Derbyshire man Mo Sheikh, unbeaten on 102, and Andrew Hendry (89), formed the bedrock of their 258-9 from 50 overs.
Leach was far and away the pick of the Shrewsbury attack, taking 6-34 from 10 sharp overs a day after helping Worcestershire beat Bangladesh A at New Road.
“Joe was brilliant,” said Foster. “He did exactly what you want him to do and was the stand out by far, miles above anyone else who bowled for us.
“The rest of our bowling and fielding efforts was pretty ordinary all round which was disappointing, but Joe was outstanding which was good to see.”
Shrewsbury began their reply set a revised target of 238 from a reduced 40 overs but a couple more interruptions owing to rain eventually meant the figure that mattered was 190 in 32 overs.
After the final delay it all came down to the county towners needing to hit 47 from the final 4.4 overs and on the resumption Shropshire wicketkeeper Anthony Parker promptly cracked three successive sixes.
Shrewsbury then had a little wobble before Barnard (14no) hit a six off the penultimate ball of the match followed by a four off the final delivery to lead the relieved hosts over the line to 193-8.
Tom Cox, at No 5, had earlier dug in to hit 54 while Parker (37), Rob Foster (23) and Ed Foster (20) also contributed.
“Anthony’s three sixes in a row swung the game back in our favour,” added the skipper. “At one stage we needed 19 to win off the last three overs and I thought we would cruise it.
“We then nearly threw it away but then Steve Barnard came up with the goods again.”