Upbeat Shropshire captain James Ralph hopes his side can wrap up their Unicorns Championship campaign with a fourth successive victory when they welcome Wiltshire to Whitchurch this weekend.
Since Ralph assumed the captaincy once again earlier this season, Shropshire have impressively reeled off a hat-trick of straight wins over Oxfordshire, Cornwall and Devon which means they still have a slim chance of landing the Western Division title.
The experienced Bridgnorth batsman admits it’s a long shot, but he’s delighted how Shropshire’s fortunes have picked up after they started the Championship season with heavy defeats against Wales and Herefordshire.
“I think we would need a bit of a miracle to win the division,” said Ralph. “We probably need to beat Wiltshire and at the same time need two other games to be totally rained off.
“But if you had said we would still have had a mathematical chance going into the last game after the first two matches of the season, people would have probably laughed.
“When I took over, I wanted us to win four matches out of four. We’ve had three victories so hopefully we can now get another one.”
Ralph modestly plays down his own role in Shropshire’s revival even though it’s come under his guidance.
He prefers to instead praise the contribution of the youngsters who have taken their chance since being handed a chance to step into the side while he also hailed the impact of former Yorkshire pros Ben Sanderson and Gurman Randhawa.
Sanderson took 14 wickets in the recent victory at Cornwall while it was Randhawa’s turn to shine in the last match as Devon were beaten at Exeter with 13 victims overall.
“It’s been made easy because the bowlers are bowling well,” he stressed. “As a captain you’re only as good as your team and when they’re taking as many wickets as they are it makes it easy.
“We’ve got probably the two best bowlers in Minor Counties cricket in Ben and Gurm. Ben’s probably the best seamer in the competition – he never seems to bowl bad balls – and Gurm’s the best spinner.
“You’ve got to take 20 wickets to win games and we’ve got the bowlers who can do that for us.”
Ralph added: “There’s probably a few people in the side who feel like they’ve not done themselves justice yet, but we’ve got some good young players.
“I think Ross Aucott can be a good all-rounder for Shropshire for the next 10 years while Steve Leach, Joe Carrasco and Ryan Lockely have been a bit of a rock for us in the top three. They batted really well on a very difficult wicket at Devon.”
Now Ralph is urging his team to produce another impressive team display when they complete a campaign which has improved the longer it’s gone on against Wiltshire at Whitchurch’s Heath Road ground in a three-day game which starts on Sunday.
He said: “Wiltshire were top of the table going into the latest round of games so they’re a good side.
“We did well to beat them last year despite one of their players, Coles, getting 200 against us, but we had a more experienced side then with people like Richard Oliver, Joe Leach and Bilal Shafayat.
“We always enjoy playing at Whitchurch and they look after us well. The groundstaff are excellent, the teas are fantastic and we always get good support there so we’ll be looking forward to it.”
The first ball will be bowled at Whitchurch on Sunday at 11am and admission to all three days is free.
Pictured: Shropshire captain James Ralph – chasing a fourth successive victory when Wiltshire head to Whitchurch.