Rising star Xavi Clarke set to play a leading role with Shifnal

Shifnal captain Chris Murrall has talked up the influence of new addition, highly-rated Shropshire youngster Xavi Clarke, as his side look to build on their first victory of the season.

Xavi Clarke
Xavi Clarke

Xavi, 19, who made his debut for the county last year, joined Shifnal in the close season from Oswestry alongside older brother Robbie, 25, a former Morda Road captain, as Shifnal netted their two top targets.

And, after a disappointing opening-day defeat at a depleted Oswestry side, the Clarke brothers rallied to prove, if needed, why Shifnal brought them in.

Xavi led the way last weekend against Shrewsbury – a favourite with many to win the adjusted Graham Williamson Trophy this year – with a cool 47, alongside four wickets in a spell that turned the game in Shifnal's favour, according to skipper Murrall.

Shifnal and the Clarke duo, brothers of England and Nottinghamshire's Joe, head to Wem on Saturday, the newly-promoted side from the Shropshire League who have began Birmingham League life with two defeats from two.

"It was a big win," said Murrall. "Shrewsbury are always a very good side and looked like they were taking the game away from us at one point but we pulled it back really well.

"There were some big performances from a couple of the new guys that really helped and got us the win we were worthy of.

"Xav is only 19, an up-and-coming player, he bowls leg spin and took four (wickets) and got 40-odd with the bat.

"He played really well and looks positive for us. It definitely looks good for us.

"With his brother Robbie as well, who is a good player as we've seen before, he's got 100 against us in the past and scored a lot of runs for Shropshire over the years.

"They've been big signings for us and it's good to see Steve Leach score runs and get his season started, he's always a big player for us."

Shifnal remain without Worcestershire duo Joe Leach and Mitch Stanley. Shaun Lorimer comes in for wicketkeeper James Sookias this weekend.

Pears captain Leach is in action with his county and unlikely to play club cricket until September while Stanley is recovering from a knock.

Saturday's hosts Wem might have started with defeats against Shrewsbury and Wolverhampton in Group One of the six-team mini-league, but the Shifnal camp insist they are not taking notice of the early results.

"I've got a lot of respect for Wem coming from the Shropshire league," added Murrall. "They won the play-off situation showing they can win games of cricket. There'll be no easy game.

"I haven't read too much into that (two defeats). Anyone can beat anyone. If somebody said we'll lose to Oswestry and beat Shrewsbury they would say you're mad.

"Bridgnorth have won two and I don't think anybody else has so it shows how competitive it is.

"We're hoping to be somewhere near the top come the end and the win over Shrewsbury puts us in line with that."

Shrewsbury look to recover from their Shifnal disappointment with a return to London Road, where they face Bridgnorth, who take an early lead in the standings with two wins from two.

In the group's other game, Oswestry go to Wolverhampton, both sides having won one and lost one so far.

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