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Shropshire hit the ground running

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Chris Murtagh

Former Surrey batsman Chris Murtagh top-scored with 64 as Shropshire eased to a three-wicket victory over Staffordshire

Defending champions Shropshire got their 2011 MCCA Trophy campaign off to a strong start with a three-wicket victory over Staffordshire in Oswestry.

The hosts chased down their target of 229 with 16 balls to spare, thanks largely to 64 from former Surrey batsman Chris Murtagh and a lusty 46 off just 32 deliveries from wicketkeeper Andrew Parker.

A late hiccup saw Shropshire lose two wickets with the scores level, but debutant Tom Cox then struck the winning run to finish unbeaten on 35.

Left-arm spinner Gareth Morris claimed 3-36 for Staffs, who had earlier struggled with the bat as they were dismissed for 228 in the 50th over after being put into bat.

Jonny Mountford - a late inclusion in Shropshire’s line-up - claimed the first two wickets to fall. Opener Alex Stead edged the seamer through to Parker, while Dave Wheeldon was superbly caught on the third man boundary by Mark Downes.

Peter Wilshaw and debutant Atiq Chishti each failed to make the most of promising starts as they fell for 39 and 31 and wickets continued to fall at regular intervals as the innings progressed.

Former Staffs captain Richard Harvey, who came into the team after Nav Poonia was forced to withdraw from the game following a sudden serious illness in the family, top-scored with 42 and youngster Ben McGuire chipped in with 31 from 17 balls, but Staffs were dismissed with two balls to spare, with Jonathan Whitney returning 3-60.

Whitney made just eight with the bat before departing in the sixth over of Shropshire’s reply and Morris then struck in consecutive overs to remove Ed and Robert Foster, leaving the hosts on 79 for three.

However, Murtagh then added 52 for the fourth wicket with James Ralph and, although both were then dismissed, a partnership of 72 between Cox and Parker took Shropshire to the brink of victory.

AJ Harris and Alex Stead delayed the inevitable with the respective wickets of Parker and Andy Gray, but Shropshire soon completed their chase.

Staffs coach Kim Barnett remains optimistic his side can reach the quarter-finals.

The former England international said: “We need to learn from this and go up a gear for next Sunday's game against Cheshire at Knypersley.

“We were just a bit out in both departments but not that too far away. It is still all to play for and a good side can bounce back from defeat and this will be our test."