‘Peter Wilshaw delivered at the most crucial times in Staffordshire’s history’

Staffordshire County Cricket Club's Peter Wilshaw

The impact Peter Wilshaw has had not only on Staffordshire, but minor counties cricket in general, was perfectly highlighted in a game he didn’t play in.

When Staffordshire arrived at Bury St Edmunds for this season’s NCCA Championship Division One East opener against Suffolk, Wilshaw was absent.

A member of the Suffolk contingent asked of his whereabouts and, when told he hadn’t been selected, replied ‘crikey, Staffs must have a good team out today if Wilshaw isn’t in it’.

That fixture was, remarkably, the first Championship match Staffs had played without Wilshaw in the side for 16 years.

The 36-year-old wasn’t selected for the following two matches, but returned for this week’s draw against Lincolnshire.

And that match at Checkley brought the curtain down on his NCCA career after he announced his intention to retire from representing Staffordshire.

As he walked up the bank at Checkley for the final time, Wilshaw took with him some impressive statistics.

He scored 5,841 Championship runs – and took 11 wickets – as well as churning out almost 2,000 runs in the limited-overs format.

This week’s appearance was his 98th in the Championship format.

‘Suffolk debut’

He won the Championship title once, divisional title twice and the Twenty20 Cup once… and his journey started back in 2004.

Wilshaw, then aged 16 and on the Notts Academy, was initially named as 12th man for a fixture against Suffolk at Ransomes.

However, all-rounder Peter Scott dropped out of the side, which resulted in Wilshaw making his senior county debut.

He scored 43 in the first innings and 11 in the second as Staffs returned home with the points after a Kim Barnett-inspired run chase.

Richard Harvey was Staffordshire’s captain at the time and he says he had no concerns about throwing the 16-year-old into minor counties cricket.

“I had played with Pete at Longton and he was just like having another guy in the side,” he said. “He was only 16, but he was already a mature bloke, not a junior.

Peter Wilshaw made 28 on his final appearance for Staffordshire.
Peter Wilshaw made 28 on his final appearance for Staffordshire. Picture: Alfie Shenton

“It was a straightforward decision to play him and he was there on merit.

“Devon Malcolm was playing for Suffolk and still getting it through. But I remember walking around the ground when Pete was batting and thinking ‘he’s ready for this’.

“You could just tell. And you knew that if he had a long career he was going to get a massive amount of runs – he was on the periphery of first-class cricket.

“When you look at the great Staffs players, Pete is highly ranked. That was down to his presence and the runs he scored.

“He bossed attacks and his numbers speak for themselves. The amount of hundreds he scored, you have to be a cut above to achieve that.”

‘Piling up the runs’

Wilshaw scored 15 Championship centuries for Staffs – sitting only four behind Steve Dean, who tops the charts with 19. He also made two one-day hundreds.

Arguably his finest hour was in 2014 when his second-innings 107 helped Staffs to win the Championship final against Wiltshire at Salisbury.

Wilshaw’s innings enabled Staffs to reach a defendable total before they ran out 28-run winners.

That ended Staffordshire’s 16-year wait for a Championship title – and proved to be a fitting finale for captain Paul Goodwin, who retired after the match.

Goodwin has plenty of memories about his former team-mate, including when he was an unlikely matchwinner with the ball.

“There’s three games from Pete’s career which really stand out for me,” said Goodwin.

Peter Wilshaw on his way to 107 for Staffordshire in the 2014 Championship final against Wiltshire.
Peter Wilshaw on his way to 107 for Staffordshire in the 2014 Championship final against Wiltshire. Picture: Trevor Porter

“Firstly, there was the final against Wiltshire. Some people forget he actually got 50 in the first innings as well.

“For me, Pete was always the first name on the teamsheet because, as a captain, you knew he would deliver when we needed it most.

“In that moment he delivered in one of the most crucial times in Staffordshire’s history. Without his runs, we wouldn’t have won.

“The second match is when he ended up taking 5-33 to win at Hertfordshire in 2010.

“The game was going nowhere, so I threw him the ball just before tea to see what would happen – and off he went.

“The other one is a catch he took against Bucks. Joel Pope tried to paddle Paul Byrne, and Pete ran from first slip to leg slip to take the catch.

“Pope was looking comfortable and that catch turned the match.”

‘A top talent’

Goodwin also played in Wilshaw’s debut Championship encounter – and he says it’s little wonder that opponents came to fear him.

“I remember his debut. He was a man in a child’s body, but he’s gone from strength to strength,” added Goodwin. “He had a big reputation in league cricket and he’s just transferred that to minor counties.

“For me, he goes down as one of the top five Staffordshire legends. He was a character on the circuit and there will be plenty of happy faces in the opposition ranks knowing he won’t be batting against them again.”

Wilshaw made 28 in his final innings for Staffs this week. And, fittingly, he batted with Meakins team-mate Michael Hill.

Hill was part of the 2014 title-winning side – and is now the ‘last man standing’ from that team.

‘Fitting finale’

“It was great to have a bat with him one last time representing Staffordshire and hitting a few boundaries along the way,” said Hill. “Pete’s been a quality player for so long and dominated minor counties cricket.

“He’s worn the Knot with pride and he’s been ‘Mr Staffordshire’.

“There’s so many memories. One of them, I wasn’t playing, but in 2018 Pete kept smashing sixes on his way to a hundred at Netherfield. I was at work and was being facetimed as the carnage unfolded and the ball kept disappearing over the pavilion.

Peter Wilshaw was presented with a signed shirt after his last Staffordshire appearance.
Peter Wilshaw was presented with a signed shirt after his last Staffordshire appearance. Picture: Alfie Shenton

“There was also the time he went past his dreaded score of 138. He’d been out on that a couple of times. But against Bucks he made 144 – when he got to 139 we all stood up and applauded.

“He was also so proud to be captain and it meant a lot, but you can’t look past that innings he played in the 2014 final.

“We were a young batting line-up, bar Kadeer (Ali), and Pete stood up and showed his class.”

‘Happy times’

Former Staffordshire seamer Greg Willott also played in the 2014 final, taking key second innings wickets. He believes Wilshaw rightly takes his place among Staffordshire’s legends.

“It’s been a great career and he’s given the county great service,” explained Willott.

“He will go down as one of the greats. And one of the top five batters we’ve ever produced.

“I had the pleasure of batting with him when he got his 100 at Wiltshire and it’s one of my happiest memories.”

The final words go to Staffordshire president Nick Archer – a man who knows success.

Archer captained Staffs to three Championship titles and two one-day crowns in the 1990s.

“I’ve been lucky enough to watch the majority of Pete’s games and his record speaks for itself – in terms of performance and the support he has given the county.

“He’s a player most associated with Staffordshire and he was the outstanding player of his generation.”

Main image: Peter Wilshaw has retired from Staffordshire duty. Picture: Alfie Shenton