A FURIOUS late onslaught by all-rounder James Rudge brought Herefordshire almost to within touching distance of what would have been a famous victory over Shropshire in the NCCA 50 over competition at Whitchurch.

When Rudge arrived at the crease in the 40th over, Herefordshire were 160-7, still 127 behind their hosts’ target.

But the 24-year-old was quickly into his stride, racing to a half-century in just 20 balls, beating the previous record by a Herefordshire player by three balls, held by Chris Boroughs against Hertfordshire at Colwall in 2010.

At the start of the final over, the target had been reduced to a still mathematically achievable 31. Toby Cox (nine not out) took a single from the first ball leaving 30 required from five balls.

Rudge promptly launched the second ball for six before being caught from the third just inside the boundary for 78, from 39 balls which had included eight sixes and three fours.

The relief amongst the Shropshire supporters was palpable and the home side eventually triumphed by 21 runs, a much smaller margin than had appeared likely.

Earlier, Daniyal Khan (63) and Luke Tulacz (40) had both put together fine innings with some good support from Ben Chapman-Lilley (18), Ollie Walker (16) and Luke Powell (12).

But the Herefordshire batting had been unable to score at a sufficiently fast rate to put the home side under pressure, until Rudge’s arrival at the crease.

Herefordshire had won the toss and invited Shropshire to bat, but their attack had largely failed to find the rhythm or penetration achieved in their win over Staffordshire the week before.

Sam Keeling-Wright (3-52), however, again bowled impressively in picking up a couple of early wickets while Walker’s two wicket included that of Tom Fell (90) who, along with Andre Bradford (62), played pivotal roles in the home county’s score of 287-5.

Next Sunday, Herefordshire take on Suffolk at Colwall with both sides still in with a  chance of joining group leaders Norfolk – beaten today by 19 runs by Suffolk – in the knock-out stages of the competition.