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Cheshire on the brink despite defeat

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Andy Hall

Cheshire captain Andy Hall acknowledged that his side were beaten by a better team following their narrow loss to Shropshire © David Bailey

Cheshire slipped to an agonising 26-run defeat to Shropshire, last season's one-day champions, in their last MCCA Trophy group match.

But despite their first loss of the season, Cheshire have almost guaranteed their qualification to the quarter-final stages of this year's competition with a second-place finish in the final qualifying group standings with a total of five points from a possible eight.

Cumberland can still qualify if they beat Shropshire in their last match this Sunday, but they will also have to play very well to overtake Cheshire's run-rate.

At this stage Cheshire are favourites to go through, especially with Shropshire having won all three of their group games so far.

With their first loss - after an exciting clash at Shifnal Cricket Club - Cheshire will now relinquish home advantage for the next phase.

A victory would have seen the county finish group one champions and host their quarter-final match at Christleton Cricket Club. But a defeat means Cheshire will now have to play away the group three champions - who looked likely to be Herefordshire - on Sunday June 19.

If Cheshire can win that match then they would also play away in the semi-finals, with another victory securing a place in a showcase final at Lords.

"It's great to have nearly qualified," reflected Cheshire skipper Andy Hall. "Of course it would been good to have beaten Shropshire and finished unbeaten, but the most important thing was to make sure we qualified.

"Shropshire are a good side and they made it tough for us, but it was a good game of cricket. We probably let them get a few too many runs, but we gave it a really good go trying to chase them down."

Cheshire lost out to Lincolnshire in the Trophy quarter-finals last season, so it's little surprise Hall and his side want to make sure they don't bow out at the business end of proceedings.

"It was a great game with Lincolnshire last season, it was a really high-scoring quarter-final," added Hall. "We were disappointed to lose that match, but we'll me trying hard to make sure we go further than the quarter-finals this season.

"We've just got to wait on the Cumberland result, but fingers crossed that result goes our way and we'll be through."

Shropshire batted first and, thanks to an impressive 83 from their professional Chris Murtagh - the former Surrey batsman - the hosts were able to post a respectable 250 for eight from their allotted 50 overs.

The wickets were shared for Cheshire, but Adam Syddall stood out with 1-43 from his 10 overs.

In reply all-rounder Richard Logan top-scored with 66, while vice captain James Duffy and skipper Hall both weighed in with 46 and 40 respectively, but Cheshire still fell short in an exciting finish to proceedings as Shropshire were crowned group champions.