By Stuart Dunn, @studunn21, at The Shrewsbury Chronicle
ENGLAND batsman James Taylor will be the headline act when Shrewsbury host West Bromwich Dartmouth in the Birmingham League on Saturday.
Taylor hit a stunning, unbeaten 204 in the County Championship for Nottinghamshire against Sussex at Trent Bridge earlier this week.
And now he’s told delighted Shrewsbury skipper Rob Foster that he should be available to make his first appearance of the season for the London Road club as they bid to bounce back from being knocked off the top of the premier division table.
There’s another boost for Shrewsbury, too, with allrounder Joe Leach set to return having impressed for Worcestershire in last weekend’s County Championship victory against Glamorgan at New Road.
But it’s the presence of Taylor on Shrewsbury’s team sheet which really excites Foster, with the 23-year-old Notts star, the club’s high profile contracted player, expected to bat at No 3.
Taylor, better known around London Road as Jimmy, has close links with the club having played for them as a teenager while studying at Shrewsbury School.
“I’ve spoken to Jimmy and he’s confirmed he’s available so hopefully he should play,” said skipper Foster. “He’s keen to play for us and has always said he will play whenever he gets the chance.
“He played for the club when he was 16 and spent five years at Shrewsbury School so he knows most of the lads well.
“To have someone of his quality coming into the side is a massive boost.
“I would expect there to be a few more at the game watching and it’s not often you get the chance to watch someone of his class first hand.”
Taylor played two Tests for England against South Africa last summer just after his only Shrewsbury outing of the 2012 season when he was run out cheaply at home to Brockhampton.
But Foster will be hoping for more of an impact this time from a man who averages just under 50 in first class cricket.
“Jimmy’s a matchwinner,” he said. “It’s also good news that Joe Leach should be available to return as he’s a key player for us with bat and ball.”
Will Parton and Tom Ellis will make way for Taylor and Leach.
Foster, meanwhile, is remaining positive about Shrewsbury’s long-term prospects despite the heavy defeat at Brockhampton last weekend which saw the Herefordshire club replace them in pole position.
“We’re joint second and we’re nearly halfway through the season,” said Foster. “You don’t win leagues at this stage of the season, but you can certainly put yourself out of contention.
“If someone had said to me at the start of the season we would have already won six league games by now then I would have taken it.”
The main danger to Shrewsbury’s hopes this weekend is likely to be West Bromwich captain Kadeer Ali, the former Gloucestershire and Worcestershire batsman.
Saturday’s match at London Road starts at noon and admission is free with Shrewsbury hoping a bumper crowd will take advantage of the chance to watch Taylor in action.
SHREWSBURY: E Foster, S Leach, J Taylor, T Cox, J Leach, R Foster, A Parker, S Barnard, M Barnard, S Griffiths, E Green.