Shropshire’s cricketers ended with a flourish to seal a fourth win in five Unicorns Championship matches this season after completing a six-wicket victory over Wales Minor Counties.
Oswestry’s Warrick Fynn, playing at his home club ground, bowled Shropshire into a strong position on the final day by taking four wickets as Wales, 73-2 overnight, were dismissed for 148 in their second innings.
That left Shropshire chasing 214 for victory and, thanks to half centuries from Joe Carrasco, his second of the match, and Alexei Kervezee, they made assured progress towards their target.
Shropshire, who remain second in the table, are now 15 points behind Western Division leaders Berkshire, who maintained their 100 per cent record with victory at Cheshire, going into their final match of the season, against Devon at Bridgnorth, which starts on September 2.
Bryan Jones, Shropshire’s chairman of selectors, said: “Our target still is to win five out of six and if you get beaten by a side that wins six out of six, it’s fair play to them. It’s going to take a bit of doing, but at least we’ve done everything we can.”
He added: “We’re absolutely delighted with the win. It’s brilliant from where we were with Wales making 421 on the first day. They got away and played very well and we were up against it a bit, but we batted really well, Jack Twigger and Joe Carrasco in particular, and everybody chipped in. We got close enough to stay in the game.
“The third innings in a match is always very important and Warrick Fynn’s performed very well again. He’s had another great game.
“Joe’s held us together well and we’re delighted to come back from the position we were in. To bowl them out and then knock them off pretty comprehensively was brilliant.
“It’s how we’ve been playing really. We’ve gone after it as we needed to get the win. It keeps us in the hunt just about, but Berkshire won well, so credit to them. They won a game that they looked like they may have lost.”
Wales started the final day with a lead of 138 runs, but Shropshire’s spinners soon got to work with the ball. The visitors quickly lost opener Joe Voke, who had just reached 50 when he was bowled by Fynn.
Kervezee (2-46) picked up his first wicket of the match, bowling Cameron Herring for five, and the former Worcestershire allrounder soon struck again, trapping Brad Wadlan lbw for 28, to reduce the visitors to 102-5.
Fynn, who claimed 11 wickets in the match in Shropshire’s victory at Dorset earlier this month, then bowled Samuel Pearce for 10 before Bridgnorth leg spinner Sam Whitney (2-4) got in on the act, with Majied Ilyas caught behind by Ryan Lockley for three, just after Wales had stretched their lead to more than 200.
Roman Walker managed just a single before he fell to Oswestry team mate Fynn for the second time in the match, edging a catch to Lockley, to leave Wales on 141-8.
Richard Edwards was bowled by Whitney without scoring before Chris Matthews was last man out for 38, caught by Kervezee off Fynn, an eighth wicket of the match for the in-form allrounder whose second innings figures were 4-35 from 16.3 overs.
Shropshire lost an early wicket in their chase with Omar Ali caught by Voke off Edwards for eight with the score on 11.
Skipper Steve Leach contributed a run-a-ball 31 before being stumped by wicketkeeper Matthews off Oskar Kolk just before lunch to leave Shropshire 54-2.
Oswestry team mates Carrasco and Fynn put on 75 for the third wicket before Carrasco went for 54, caught by Voke off Wadlan with the score on 129.
Fynn, bowled by Ilyas for 32, quickly followed him back to the pavilion.
But then Kervezee, who ended unbeaten on 50 from 39 balls, and Ross Aucott (28no) joined forces with the score on 142-4 and shared an unbroken partnership of 72 to guide Shropshire to victory inside 42 overs.
Wales, invited to bat first on the opening day, scored freely to put 421 on the board, with a flurry of late wickets – the visitors were 372-3 at one stage – ensuring Shropshire claimed maximum bowling points.
Wales had two centurions in Kolk (141) and opener Umar Malik (100) as they put on 197 for the second wicket before Brad Wadlan added 54.
Left-arm spinner Fynn plugged away to take 4-75 and Alex Wyatt ended with figures of 4-101.
Shropshire, 68-2 overnight, had to wait until after lunch on the second day to resume their reply, but led by 84 from Carrasco and other useful contributions from nightwatchman Twigger (49) and Aucott (48), they responded with 356, with Edwards claiming 3-61.
That left Wales facing 21 overs before the close and, despite losing both of their first innings century makers Kolk and Malik cheaply, they had managed to stretch their lead to 138 runs by the end of day two.
But the third and final day belonged to Shropshire as they ensured their title challenge will go to the final match of the season.
“It’s been another good all round performance, captained well by the captain,” added Jones.