Anis Raza ready to showcase skills in crucial Trophy clash

Staffordshire County Cricket Club's Anis Raza.

Anis Raza is ready to throw himself into frontline action as he prepares to make his first Staffordshire appearance of the season.

Left-arm spinner Raza has been named in the Staffs side for Sunday’s NCCA Knockout Trophy Group Two game against Shropshire at Moddershall & Oulton because fellow slow left-armer Tom Brett is unavailable.

The stakes couldn’t be higher for Raza’s seasonal bow. Staffordshire need to win their clash and hope Herefordshire defeat Suffolk to stand a chance of qualifying for the quarter-finals.

Raza has been fulfilling 12th man duties so far this season, but believes the contest can help him to sharpen up his skills ahead of the red-ball programme.

“I didn’t really expect to be involved in the white-ball game. But this is a chance for me to show what I can do,” said Raza.

“Last year I played in the Showcase Game against Leicestershire, and then the Championship matches.

“If you look at our white-ball team on paper it is so strong – as we showed last year by winning the T20 Cup.

“It’s not quite gone to plan so far for us in the 50-over matches. When we won at Suffolk it was the complete performance.

“We batted well, got runs on the board and then put them under pressure with the ball.

“The other two games (defeats by Norfolk and Herefordshire) have been hit and miss, but the pitches have played their part.”

‘Seeing red’

Raza admits he is more of a red-ball specialist – and that was proved last year in the three-day competition.

He formed a potent partnership with Brett as the spin twins stood out in Staffordshire’s attack.

Raza took 15 wickets in the Championship. And that was despite missing the final game of the campaign against Lincolnshire at Checkley.

“Sometimes being 12th man can be frustrating, but I’ve enjoyed being around the team,” added Raza.

“I really enjoyed being back in the Championship side last summer after so many years out of the team.

James Kettleborough issues rallying call ahead of Shropshire test

“Normally you see counties go with one frontline spinner, but we went with two.

“Me and Bretty are different kinds of spinners and it worked perfectly. The opposition had to go after one of us and we reaped the rewards.

“Even when I was younger I’d say I was more of a red-ball bowler. I’ve worked on improving my skills in white ball. So this will be a good opportunity for me.

“Hopefully I can pick up a few wickets and that will set me up for the three-dayers.”

‘Lead role’

Raza is not only making his first appearance of the summer for Staffs, but he is doing so in a premier role. With Brett unavailable, Raza is the frontline spinner in the team this weekend.

“It’s a different role and Bretty has big boots to fill,” said Raza.

“He’s been fantastic for us in T20 and 50-over cricket and even when I’ve been 12th man I’ve been watching how he goes about his work.

“Hopefully I can come in and pick up some wickets and find my rhythm for the rest of the NCCA season.

Staffordshire skipper Ketts backing players to come good

“We know we need to win, but it’s never over until it’s over, so we still believe we can go through in this format.”

Raza says he has continued to develop as a spinner, but also as an all-round cricketer.

This season he has taken over as captain at Ashcombe Park in North Staffs and South Cheshire League Division One.

And he admits it’s provided another string to his bow.

“There are more roles to fill than I expected, but I’m really enjoying it,” added Raza.

“You think about the game differently. Normally you are just focused on your own game.

“But now you have to set fields for other bowlers and it has helped me as a cricketer.”

Main image: Anis Raza is in the Staffordshire side for the NCCA Knockout Trophy game against Shropshire. Picture: Pete Stonier