Shropshire's new skipper Joe Carrasco excited by the start of Unicorns Championship season this weekend

Joe Carrasco insists he’s excited about leading Shropshire’s cricketers for the first time as he prepares for the county’s Unicorns Championship opener this weekend.

The Oswestry batsman will skipper Shropshire in the three-day match against Dorset, which starts at Shrewsbury’s London Road ground, pictured, on Sunday (11am).

Carrasco has stepped up from vice-captain to replace Steve Leach, at the helm for the last three years, as the Shifnal opener's availability is now restricted after starting a new job.  

Carrasco, 23, said: “The white ball season didn’t quite go to plan for us, but I think red ball cricket is where we really excel.

“We’re hoping to show that from Sunday onwards and aim to go one step further in the Championship than we’ve managed in the last few years when we have just come up short in a couple of sessions throughout the season.

“We just need to look to improve by a few per cent and then I think we could have a good shot at going all the way. 

“A good start gives you a lot of confidence going forward.”

Carrasco enjoys playing at Shrewsbury and hopes there will be plenty of support around the boundary as Shropshire target a flying start to the season.

“I’ve played there a few times,” he said. "I always like playing at Shrewsbury as it’s a good deck there. Hopefully there will be a good crowd and we can get a bit of atmosphere on Sunday.” 

Carrasco, pleased with the quality of the Shropshire squad, is also encouraged by the number of talented young cricketers within the county.

Now he’s looking for them to continue to improve and push for a place in the team.

He added: “Ian Roe is doing some great work with Shropshire’s Academy and during the winter nets quite a few of the young lads were involved and came to training. 

"You can see how much they have kicked on, so hopefully they will continue to develop and we can see some of them play some three-day cricket this season.” 

Shropshire’s chairman of selectors Bryan Jones said he’s been impressed with Carrasco’s composure and is delighted how he's embraced the added responsibility of captaincy. 

“Joe has shown a real maturity at the top end of the batting order,” said Jones. “Added to his composure, it became clear that he would be very able to captain the team, so that’s the reason we made him vice-captain at the start of this season.

“Stepping up to now become captain has come a bit sooner than we expected, but the opportunity is now there for Joe. 

"He’s thoroughly embraced it, he’s looking forward to it and I’m sure he will do the job with as much passion as the former captain.” 

Shropshire will hand a debut to George Garrett, a consistent wicket-taker for Shrewsbury in the Birmingham League this season.

There’s also a return to the Shropshire side for Worcestershire batsman Ollie Westbury, who made his first team debut for the Pears last season.

The duo will both be in familiar surroundings at a ground they know well as Westbury spent two seasons playing club cricket for Shrewsbury earlier in his career while Warwickshire prospect Garrett, a regular in the Edgbaston club’s second team, has claimed two five-wicket hauls for Shrewsbury in the Birmingham League this season.

Former England under-19 batsman Westbury, who has previously played one-day cricket for Shropshire, has appeared regularly in Worcestershire’s second team this season.

Shropshire’s chairman of selectors Bryan Jones is delighted that both Westbury and Garrett have been given permission by their counties to face Dorset.   

He said: “George has taken quite a few wickets in the Birmingham League this season and has bowled well. We’ve been keen to get him involved this season, but he’s not been available until now with his Warwickshire commitments. 

“Ollie has played for us before. Worcestershire have had a lot of cricket rained off recently, so this is a chance for him to come in and play some cricket.”   

The first ball will be bowled at Shrewsbury at 11am on Sunday, with admission free for spectators on all three days.   

Shropshire team: Joe Carrasco (captain), Alex Phillips, Ollie Westbury, Warrick Fynn, Alexei Kervezee, Ross Aucott, Ryan Lockley, Jack Edwards, George Garrett, Jack Twigger, Ben Roberts.