Title dream still alive after Oliver and Friend shine in fine victory

Shropshire received a helping hand from a Friend to keep alive their hopes of a first Minor Counties Championship triumph since 1973.

A five-wicket haul from Tom Friend, a late call up to the side, laid the foundations for Shropshire to beat Wales by 44 runs on a dramatic final day at Oswestry.
It means Ed Foster's side still have a chance of snatching the western division crown ahead of their final match of the season against Devon at Whitchurch which begins on Sunday, August 19.

“The result against Wales was a great one for us as it puts us in with a shout of topping the Western Division going into the final game of the season,” said Foster. “Despite the rain we managed to get a game in as both sides were keen to play some competitive cricket on the last day and thankfully we came out on top.”
Shropshire now know they must end their season with another victory at home to Devon and also hope for a helping hand elsewhere.

Wiltshire, the current leaders, sign off against Oxfordshire, another side with title ambitions, while Cornwall are also in contention of finishing top ahead of their final match against Wales.
Foster insisted: “We just have to go for it in the last game. It's not in our hands, but we're in with a shout.”


Foster praised the contribution of opening batsman Richard Oliver, who struck an excellent 175 in the first innings to put Shropshire in a strong position.
And he was also delighted with the impact of right-arm seamer Friend, who plays his club cricket for Shifnal, after he stepped into the side to replace injured club mate Jack Edwards.
“It wasn't our best bowling performance of the season by any stretch but we managed to do enough to win the game,” added Foster.

“Tom Friend's showing in the second innings was crucial. The three wickets he took before lunch really got us off to a good start and then when he came back and broke the strong sixth wicket partnership later in the afternoon it gave us a much needed boost.

“Richard Oliver's performance in the first innings was nothing short of outstanding. He equalled the highest ever score by a Shropshire player in Minor Counties cricket and his innings deserves to remembered in that way.

“It gave us the platform that we needed in the first innings and it is something that we have been asking our batsmen to do all season, score big hundreds.”
Foster is now hoping that Friend, who has just completed his studies at Cardiff University and has played second team cricket for Worcestershire, will be available for the Devon game. 
Wales, set 320 to win in their second innings, fell short of their target as they were dismissed for 275 with Friend taking 5-45 to hand Shropshire a 44 run victory.



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