Joe Leach

Steve Leach returns at Shrewsbury host Walsall

By Stuart Dunn at the Shrewsbury Chronicle

Skipper Rob Foster insists Walsall can expect no favours from in-form Shrewsbury in their desperate battle to avoid relegation from the Birmingham Cricket League’s premier division.

Walsall, despite having Pakistan international all-rounder Umar Amin in their side, head to London Road for the penultimate game of the season on Saturday 32 points adrift of safety. Anything less than an away win will see them relegated.

“I wouldn’t expect any favours if we were in their position and you owe it to the other teams around them to play properly and put in a good performance,” said Foster, whose confident side are now fourth in the table following last weekend’s win at Knowle & Dorridge.

“Walsall are a big club, a proud club, with a big history, so I’m sure they’re not going to come here and be any pushovers. Along with West Brom, they’re probably won the league the most.”

Foster is just pleased his side are involved in such a meaningful game rather than an end of season clash with nothing riding on the outcome.

“There’s nothing worse than playing for nothing,” he stressed. “The last two or three games of the season can be quite painful in terms of motivation and will to play, but with them wanting to stay up it does give us something to play for which is good.”

Shrewsbury will be boosted by the return of Steve Leach, the opening batsman, and will pick from a squad of 12.

Shrewsbury also have the chance to pick up some silverware this weekend when they host Walmley in the Graham Williamson Trophy final on Sunday (12.30pm).

The London Roaders have dominated the 40 over competition for Birmingham League clubs having won it four years in a row.

“Walmley have done well this year and had a good run in the National KO,” added Foster, whose dad John held a highly successful President’s Day Festival at London Road last weekend. “We’ve won it the last four years so to win it five times would be quite a special achievement.”

SHREWSBURY (v Walsall), from: E Foster, S Leach, A Blofield, T Cox, E Barnard, R Foster, W Parton, P Butler, D Jones, M Barnard, E Green, S Griffiths.

Joe Leach

In form Joe Leach set for Shrewsbury return

By Stuart Dunn at the Shrewsbury Chronicle

Rob Foster, the Shrewsbury captain, insists Joe Leach richly deserves his new two-year contract with Worcestershire as he hopes to welcomes the all-rounder back into his side this weekend.

Leach was a key man for Shrewsbury when they won the Birmingham Cricket League’s premier division last season, but his development into becoming a Worcestershire regular in all forms of the game this year means little has been seen of him at London Road since the early weeks of the campaign.

Foster stressed any club would miss a player of Leach’s ability but said everyone connected with Shrewsbury were delighted to see the former Shrewsbury School pupil successfully carving out a career in the first-class game.

He also revealed that Leach may be available to make a welcome return for Shrewsbury in part one of their Bank Holiday double header at home to Kidderminster on Saturday. They will quickly follow it up with a trip to title contenders Barnt Green on Monday.

Foster said: “Joe’s potentially available for Saturday and it’s great to see how fatastically well he’s doing at Worcestershire.

“They have finally put their faith in him and he’s had to do it the hard way and put in the hard yards.

“Everyone at the club is really proud to see Joe doing so well and he’s made great strides in the first-class game.”

Leach has emerged as a key man for Worcestershire who top the second division of the County Championship.

While he has yet to add to his maiden first-class century, at Gloucestershire last season, Leach has chipped in with some useful runs down the order and taken 30 Championship wickets.

He also recently claimed the notable scalp of Surrey’s Kevin Pietersen as Worcestershire narrowly missed out on a place in Twenty20 finals day.

“He has possibly been our most-improved seamer and he’ll definitely get another hundred because he is good enough,” said Worcestershire’s director of cricket Steve Rhodes.

Leach has not looked back since earning a recall to the Worcestershire side in May, claiming career-best figures of 5-36 against Kent at Tunbridge Wells.

Meanwhile, Foster added steering Shrewsbury, who sit 38 points clear of the relegation zone, to premier division safety as quickly as possible remains his top priority.

“There’s 40 points to play for over the weekend so things can change quickly,” he said. “Kidderminster are pushing for survival like we are and then we go to Barnt Green who are pushing for the title.

“They are two tough games but if we can get a lot of points it could really put us out of any danger so that’s the aim.”

As well as the prospect of Leach returning, Shrewsbury will also be boosted by the availability of Alex and Henry Blofield.

Shrewsbury, from: E Foster, S Leach, R Foster, T Cox, G Hargrave, W Parton, P Butler, G Panayi, E Green, M Barnard, S Griffiths, J Leach, A Blofield, H Blofield.

Joe Leach signs two year Worcestershire contract


Worcestershire all-rounder Joe Leach has signed a new two year contracts with the county.

Twenty-three-year-old Leach scored his maiden first class century last season against Gloucestershire at Cheltenham last season.

He has fought his way back into the side this season in LV = County Championship, List A and NatWest T20 Blast cricket after captaining the Second Eleven during the early part of the campaign.

Leach’s bowling has improved considerably after working with bowling coach Matt Mason during the winter.

He has taken 24 Championship wickets including a career best 5-36 against Kent at Tunbridge Wells.

Leach has formed part of an effective pace attack after replacing Gareth Andrew following his back injury.

But he has also continued to weigh in with useful runs batting in the lower middle order in all formats of the game.

Director of Cricket Steve Rhodes said: “His bowling has come on leaps and bounds and he has been an important part of our attack. He has possibly been our most improved seamer.

“But he’ll definitely get another hundred batting where he bats now because he is good enough to do it.”

Himley set for visit to London Road

By Stuart Dunn at the Shrewsbury Chronicle

Himley, Saturday’s visitors to London Road, may currently be bottom of the Birmingham League’s premier division, but Shrewsbury captain Rob Foster is expecting nothing but a tough game.

Foster is pleased how Shrewsbury have performed on the last two Saturdays with victory at Dorridge followed by an impressive winning draw at home to high-flying Berskwell, who included former Warwickshire and England man Darren Maddy in their side.

Now he has urged his team, who are up to sixth place, some 29 points clear of the relegation zone, to keep hitting the heights.

“We’ve started to play well,” said Foster. “That’s pleasing given some of the big players we’re missing at the moment.

“We expect another tough test against Himley and I think they’re in a bit of a false position when you look at some of the players in their side.

“Greg Wright, their captain, is scoring a lot of runs at the moment so we know that we’ll have to keep playing like we are.

“We want to finish as high in the table as possible, but we’re mindful that teams around us are also winning so we need to string a few more results together.”

Foster saluted the contribution of his brother Ed who has hit 90 and 87 at the top of the order in the last two matches as he’s once again underlined his class.

“When Ed plays well, we play well,” he said. “Some people might say he’s had a quiet season but he’s still in the top four or five run scorers in the league.”

Foster added it’s unlikely Shrewsbury will see much of influential all-rounder Joe Leach in the closing weeks of the campaign now that he’s a regular in the Worcestershire side.

“It’s great for Joe that he’s taken his chance so well,” stressed Foster. “Credit to him for that and it was nice to watch him on TV playing against Surrey last weekend, particularly getting Kevin Pietersen out.”

Meanwhile, teenage Shrewsbury all-rounder Ed Barnard returned to the international stage when he lined up for England under-19s in their drawn four-day game with South Africa at Cambridge ground Fenner’s.

Shrewsbury, without the unavailable Alex Blofield this weekend, are waiting to see if Dewi Jones, who recently made his first team debut for Glamorgan, will have recovered from the injury which meant he missed the Berkswell game.

Shrewsbury, from: E Foster, S Leach, R Foster (captain), T Cox, S Barnard, M Barnard, D Manders, E Green, C Morris, S Griffiths, D Jones, P Butler, G Hargrave, G Panayi.

Shrewsbury take lion’s share from Walmley contest

By Stuart Dunn at the Shrewsbury Chronicle

Skipper Rob Foster insisted he was happy with a 17-point return after Shrewsbury produced a dominant display against Walmley to keep moving in the right direction in the Birmingham League’s premier division.

Half centuries from Joe Leach, Ed Foster and Ed Barnard helped Shrewsbury rattle up an imposing total of 278-7.

Sam Griffiths then helped himself to four wickets as Walmley recovered from 95-6 to close on 193-8.

The result lifted Shrewsbury up to seventh spot in the table and ensures they will travel to joint leaders West Bromwich Dartmouth on Saturday in good spirits.

“I was happy with the performance,” said skipper Foster, who picked up a wicket in the first over he’s bowled this season. “We have wanted to put a bit of consistency into our cricket and this was as good as you can get really without a win bar one more bonus point.

“It was obviously disappointing not to get 24 points but it’s as close as a win you can get. We dominated the game really from five overs in to the end so that was pleasing to see.”

Shrewsbury struggled for runs earlier in the season but this was one of their more productive days with the bat as they scored freely.

They lost Steve Leach early on but Ed Foster and Worcestershire all-rounder Joe Leach then put on 158 for the second wicket.
Leach top scored with 73 from 119 balls and Foster cracked 70 from 99 deliveries.

England under-19 international Barnard kept the scoreboard ticking over by making 54 before wicketkeeper Anthony Parker added a brisk, unbeaten 28 to lift the score up to 278-7.

Skipper Foster said: “When Ed (Foster) scores runs it seems to settle the side down and help us.

“It was good to have Joe Leach back and he played well. They built a platform for us.

“Ed Barnard then came in and showed his class and Mushy (Anthony Parker) got a few as well so it’s good to see him getting runs. It was a good performance with the bat.”

Walmley, in reply, looked on the brink of going under once former Warwickshire batsman Navdeep Poonia was bowled by Griffiths who took 4-34 from 15 overs.

But Chris Whittock managed to steady the ship for the visitors with an unbeaten 56 as Walmley, despite Joe Leach also taking 2-32, held on for the draw, closing on 193-8.

“Sam was the star with the ball,” added Foster, who decided to bring himself on to bowl for the first time this season towards the end, taking a wicket with his fourth ball.

“I only bowled three or four overs last season but I thought I would give it a try,” he added. “A few people have twisted my arm to have a bowl.

“It’s just a case of doing what’s best for the side. If I need to bowl a few overs then so be it.”

Meanwhile, SHREWSBURY II are 13 points adrift at the bottom of the Birmingham League’s premier reserve division following a 49 run defeat at high flying Walmley II.

Henry Blofield (3-49) and Aussie Patrick Butler (2-38) picked up some reward as Walmley, held together by 90 from James Brocklebank, totalled 246-8.

Shrewsbury’s openers Jon Anders (60) and George Hargrave (45) laid solid foundations to the reply while Blofield (38) and George Panayi (29) also weighed in as the visitors were dismissed for 197.

Shrewsbury’s second string host Harborne II on Saturday.

Ed barnard

Ed Barnard and Joe Leach return for Walmley’s visit

By Stuart Dunn at the Shrewsbury Chronicle

ENGLAND under-19 prospect Ed Barnard is in line to return to the Shrewsbury side for Saturday’s home clash against Walmley in the Birmingham Cricket League’s premier division, writes STUART DUNN.

Barnard, who helped English finish third in the under-19 World Cup in the United Arab Emirates earlier this year, has been ruled out of most of the London Road club’s games this season owing to Shrewsbury School commitments.

The gifted all-rounder hit 84 on his first appearance of the season for Worcestershire’s 2nd XI against Warwickshire last week, putting on 141 for the sixth wicket with former Shropshire captain Richard Oliver who cracked a remarkable, unbeaten 292.

Now skipper Rob Foster is looking forward to welcoming Barnard back into his plans against Walmley as Shrewsbury look to build on last weekend’s excellent 147 run victory at Walsall.

Foster said: “I’m pretty sure Ed should be available most Saturdays now depending on England under-19s schedule.”

Foster is also waiting to see if Joe Leach can figure having been on County Championship duty for Worcestershire against Glamorgan earlier this week.

Should both Barnard and Leach be available, it will present Shrewsbury with a welcome selection headache as they target a run of wins to lift them up from their current position of eighth.

Foster, delighted with the manner of last weekend’s runaway victory at a Walsall side including Pakistan Test all-rounder Umar Amin, said: “It was a great 24 points for us and hopefully that was a turning point, but it will not really count for anything unless we follow it up with another win. We need to get a bit of momentum going.

“It should be a good game against Walmley and they are only a couple of points above us in the table.”

Walmley are likely to include former Warwickshire batsman Navdeep Poonia plus two more men who have played international cricket for Scotland in Ollie Hairs and Freddie Coleman, a current Edgbaston man.

Shrewsbury, from: from: S Leach, E Foster, T Cox, R Foster, P Butler, A Parker, S Barnard, D Jones, S Griffiths, M Barnard, E Green, E Barnard, J Leach.

Leach set to return for K&D clash

By Stuart Dunn at the Shrewsbury Chronicle

WORCESTERSHIRE all-rounder Joe Leach is set to hand Shrewsbury a timely boost by declaring himself available for Saturday’s Birmingham League clash at home to Knowle & Dorridge.

Leach has cemented a regular place in the New Road club’s County Championship side in recent matches which has meant his Shrewsbury appearances have been limited since the early weeks of the season.

Now skipper Rob Foster hopes the talented 23-year-old, who bats in the top four for Shrewsbury as well as opening the bowling, will return to London Road for the visit of fourth-placed K&D.

Shrewsbury will start the game in the premier division’s bottom three having lost four of their eight league matches this season.

“It’s always great to have Joe in the side,” said Foster. “It will be a huge boost to have him available as he bats and bowls. It would be like having two players coming back into the side.

“Worcestershire have no game this weekend and Joe’s always keen to come and play for us when he has the chance.”

Paceman Mike Barnard is also pushing for a place after taking four cheap wickets on his senior bow this season in last Sunday’s comfortable win over Oswestry in the ECB National Twenty20 KO.

But offspinning all-rounder Alex Blofield is unavailable which leaves Shrewsbury still considering their selection options as the reigning champions chase a win to get them moving back in the right direction.

“We know Knowle & Dorridge are playing well at the moment and they’ve got some good players,” added Foster. “They’ve got a good overseas player in batsman Michael Hill, a Big Bash star back home in Australia for Victoria.

“Derbyshire’s Richard Johnson is likely to play for them and Alex Phillips was up there with Ed (Foster) and Steve Leach as the top run scorers in the division last season.

“It will be a tough game but we just need to put a few results together to move us up the table.”

Shrewsbury also have a home game on Sunday when they welcome Kidderminster in the semi-finals of the Graham Williamson Trophy.

Shrewsbury (v Knowle & Dorridge), from: E Foster, S Leach, T Cox, P Butler, R Foster, A Parker, S Barnard, D Jones, S Griffiths, E Green, J Leach, M Barnard.

1st XI pass Knowle and Dorridge test

By Stuart Dunn at the Shrewsbury Chronicle

SHREWSBURY are looking good ahead of the start of their Birmingham League premier division title defence this weekend after another impressive victory in the Graham Williamson Trophy.

Having won at top-flight rivals West Bromwich Dartmouth a week earlier, Shrewsbury, who have won this comeptition four years in a row, claimed another eye-catching result last weekend by beating much fancied Knowle & Dorridge by 16 runs.

“It was good to pick up another win,” said captain Rob Foster. “We probably weren’t at our best for large parts in the field but it was good to put down a marker against a good side which finished third in the league last season.”

The success was built around an excellent 132 run stand for the second wicket between Ed Foster and Ed Barnard.

Shrewsbury, invited to bat first, lost Oxford University batsman Steve Leach in the infancy of their innings for three.

That brought Foster and Barnard together in the middle and they batted the London Roaders into a strong position.

Foster, on his first club appearance of the season, led the way with a polished 81 as he built on the splendid 118 he hit for Shropshire in a friendly against Staffordshire the previous Sunday.

Foster cracked eight fours and two sixes off 81 balls and together with teenager Barnard he really took the game to K&D.

England under-19 ace Barnard, the star of the show in making 98 in the first round win at West Bromwich, was once again in good touch in hitting 49 from 74 deliveries as Shrewsbury racked up 185-8 from their 40 overs.

Shrewsbury could not have hoped for a better start with the ball with the club’s Worcestershire all-rounder Joe Leach trapping Australian opener Michael Hill leg before with the very first ball of the innings.

Hill is a regular for Victoria Down Under and renowned as a dangerous, big-hitting batsman but he had no chance to show what he can do.

Former Shelton man Sam Griffiths then also picked up a key lbw decision, removing Warwickshire’s Paul Best for 20 to make it advantage Shrewsbury.

Opener Alex Phillips dug in to make 53 but the visitors pulled up short of their target on 169-8.

Leach took 2-20 from eight tight overs and Steve Barnard claimed 2-35 to leave Shrewsbury eagerly awaiting Saturday’s opening league game of the season at home to West Bromwich Dartmouth.

Captain Foster added: “The two Eds batted very well to put us in a good position. Joe Leach then bowled fantastically well and some of Knowle’s top players couldn’t lay a bat on him.

“This is a good competition for us. They are always good competitive warm up games and now we’re raring to go for the league season.”

Shrewsbury will now take on Kidderminster Victoria in the semi finals of the Graham Williamson Trophy on Sunday, May 4.

Joe Leach

Joe Leach signs new contract with Worcestershire

By Stuart Dunn, @studunn21, at The Shrewsbury Chronicle

JOE LEACH insists his performances for Birmingham Cricket League champions Shrewsbury have been key in securing a new contract at Worcestershire.

The influential all-rounder is delighted to have agreed a new deal at New Road and hopes to hold down a regular place for the Pears in the County Championship next season.

He’s currently recharging his batteries ahead of returning to pre-season training on November 4 alongside the likes of Worcestershire’s Shrewsbury-born opening bowler Jack Shantry.

Leach, who cracked his maiden first class century against Gloucestershire at Cheltenham in July, played a key role for Shrewsbury as they were crowned Birmingham League champs for the second time in four years in August.

And the former Shrewsbruy School pupil, who turns 23 on Sunday, stressed his continued involvement at London Road has really helped him push on as a professional cricketer.

“It might sound a cliche but playing for Shrewsbury has taught me to be a winner and there’s nothing better than winning games,” said Leach.

“Being at the forefront of things for Shrewsbury has given me quite a bit of responsibility on my shoulders and I’ve been happy to do that.”

Leach still plans to play for Shrewsbury whenever he’s available next summer but, with his long-term career in mind, he hopes his Birmingham League appearances may be a little more limited as that would mean he’s holding down a regular spot for Worcestershire.

He said: “I would say last season was more of a breakthrough for me as, although I had played some first team cricket at Worcester the year before, it had not gone particularly well.

“I really had to prove myself and I was pleased with 80 per cent of how the season went.

“I’m now hoping for a little more consistency and the aim has to be to have a good pre-season to make sure I’m in the team from day one next year.”

Leach is not the only all-rounder vying for a first team spot at New Road with Gareth Andrew and Ross Whiteley, a recent recruit from Derbyshire, also in the frame.

But Leach believes there is no reason why all three of them should not be accommodated in the side at the same time.

Leach, also a star performer for Shropshire in the past, is currently averaging 23.70 with the bat in first class cricket while he has taken 18 wickets at just under 30 apiece.

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.