Andy Carr burns the midnight oil to put Staffs back on track

Staffordshire County Cricket Club head coach Andy Carr.

Andy Carr has had sleepless nights ahead of Staffordshire’s trip to Norfolk this weekend.

The Staffs head coach has been consumed by formulating the perfect game plan to help his side bounce back in the NCCA Championship.

Staffordshire had opened up their Division One East three-day campaign with a first victory in Suffolk for 19 years.

But they followed it up with a disappointing performance in losing to Buckinghamshire by eight wickets at West Bromwich Dartmouth.

So there’s a recovery mission to be undertaken at Manor Park in the latest three-day assignment, which starts on Sunday.

And Carr is leaving no stone unturned as he bids to put Staffordshire back in the winners’ enclosure.

“I’m itching to get back out there, I can’t wait,” said Carr. “I’ve got plans going around in my head.

“I’ve been speaking to Chris Milward (Staffordshire Cricket’s pathway and performance manager) and using him as a bit of a mentor if you like.

“This last three or four days I’ve been constantly waking up at night, reaching for a pen and paper by my bed and jotting down ideas.

“I’m trying to do the best for the team and I know we’re not a million miles away. It’s about us having a clear plan and then going out and executing it.”

‘Disappointing performance’

Staffordshire’s plans went awry in their defeat by Buckinghamshire.

Bucks’ bowlers looked to bowl a full length and extract movement from the Sandwell Park wicket, while their batsmen batted time.

Staffs, however, couldn’t find a consistent line and length, regularly dropping short which enabled their rivals to score relatively easily.

“We’ve talked about it over and over again,” added Carr. “It can be difficult. I accept that coming out of the T20 and 50-over white-ball games, there’s a period of time where the lads need to focus on the transition to red ball.

Staffordshire change things up for trip to Norfolk

“It’s a different game, although some elements are similar – the responsibility of batting time and consistently hitting the top of off stump when we bowl.

“We had that month-long break between white and red-ball and for next season that’s something we need to look at – getting the lads together and really focusing on our red-ball skills.

“The players certainly have the ability to execute the skills, but they are still in white-ball mode.

“We have lads in the squad who have dual or mixed roles. It’s about making sure that they are 100 per cent clear about what they need to do.”

‘Confidence boost’

The loss to Bucks left their opponents top of the table and Staffordshire trailing by 18 points.

Realistically, Staffs need to win their final two matches – at Norfolk and at home to Lincolnshire – to stand any realistic chance of topping the standings.

However, they will make the long trek to East Anglia in a buoyant mood after securing a DLS victory over Leicestershire in Sunday’s NCCA Showcase Game at Knypersley.

“I am 100 per cent behind the squad and we will go to Norfolk with a positive attitude,” explained Carr.

“The players have to believe in themselves as well because we do as a support staff.

James Kettleborough delighted as Staffs break first-class duck

“There’s still 48 points to play for and it’s still achievable (winning the division).

“We will have one eye on the Bucks v Lincolnshire game this weekend. But we can’t control what goes on there. We have to look after ourselves.

“I think the Leicestershire game came at the perfect time after such a heavy defeat by Bucks.

“Firstly it was a different format and secondly it was a chance to play against professionals.

“We proved we could compete and the energy we showed is something that we will be taking down to Norfolk with us.”

‘Team changes’

Staffordshire have made changes to their squad for the game in Norwich.

Batsman Zen Malik and seamers Sam Atkinson and Rory Haydon all return to the team.

Opponents Norfolk have only played once in the red-ball format so far, losing to Buckinghamshire at Tring Park.

Image: Head coach Andy Carr is looking for Staffordshire to bounce back when they visit Norfolk. Picture: Alfie Shenton