Cartledge: Legend’s observations highlight Staffordshire’s T20 progress

Steve Dean, left, and current Staffordshire director of cricket Dave Cartledge.

Dave Cartledge says a boundary chat hammered home Staffordshire’s improvement in the Twenty20 format.

For the first time in their history, Staffs have reached finals day of the National Counties Cricket Association competition.

They head to Tring Park on Sunday, alongside Berkshire, Cornwall and Hertfordshire, to battle it out for the first piece of NCCA silverware on offer this season.

The short format has been a tough nut to crack for the county. But 2022 brought about a marked improvement, despite Staffs missing out on top spot in their group.

However, they have ticked that box this time around – and the upward trajectory has been noted from outside the group, says director of cricket Cartledge.

The man in question is the legendary Steve Dean – Cartledge’s former opening partner for the county – a man who is Staffs’ all-time record run scorer and boasts the honour of having compiled the most centuries for the county.

“I was walking around Leek with Steve against Shropshire and he said we looked a good team,” revealed Cartledge. “He said ‘Everyone is moving, everyone is interested and there’s a buzz about the players’.

“You might not see that when you’re with the players all the time, but those comments are from someone on the outside looking in – and he also knows his cricket.

“Steve obviously captained Staffs and scored lots of runs. You can’t knock comments like that.”

‘Experience counts’

In previous seasons, Staffordshire have often looked as though they had little structure in terms of how they approached T20 cricket.

However, the winter appointment of Andy Carr as head coach, coupled with James Kettleborough being named captain, has brought about a swift change to their fortunes.

It’s not by luck. An intense winter programme resulted in clear plans being put in place – and Cartledge says the introduction of new players, including Liam Hurt and Tom Brett, has helped them to set sail to better times in the competition.

“I think we’ve got a bit of everything now,” added Cartledge. “We’ve got a lead seamer in Liam Hurt and a lead spinner in Tom Brett.

Spinner Tom Brett joined Staffordshire ahead of the 2023 NCCA season.
Spinner Tom Brett joined Staffordshire ahead of the 2023 NCCA season.

“We also have a top captain in Ketts (James Kettleborough). They can drag people on. There’s people to follow and who will take charge.

“Ketts has made a massive difference. He’s experienced and he’s like Kadeer (Ali, former Staffs captain) in terms of being a calming influence.

“We’ve lost early wickets in games, but haven’t panicked. We’ve rebuilt and gone on to win matches. And we’ve won the other way as well – we had to defend 15 in the last over at Cheshire and Liam showed his experience to only concede five runs.”

‘Tough challenge’

Staffordshire’s Group One campaign started with a wash out against Cumbria, before they lost their first competitive game against Northumberland.

They bounced back to win the second clash, and inbetween the weather which has hampered all sides, they have chalked up wins against Shropshire and Cheshire.

That led to them topping the section to secure their spot at Tring Park this weekend.

Lying in wait are Berkshire, former winners of the competition, in the first semi-final at 10am.

It will be the first time the two counties have faced each other since Berkshire secured a thrilling one-wicket win in the 2019 Championship final at Banbury.

Redman and Raza lead the way in Staffordshire Development XI win

“It’s a good game for us against Berkshire,” explained Cartledge. “Out of the sides there, I would have chosen to play them and also to be on first.

“It doesn’t give them a chance to see us and we are stronger than we were the last time we played them. I’m quite happy.

“T20 is not my preferred format, but we’ve got to finals day, so you take it. We’ve earned the right to be there amidst a series of washouts in the group.

“You have to respect Berkshire. They have done really well over the last six or seven years and are always there or thereabouts.”

Hertfordshire, who face Cornwall in the afternoon semi-final, have also lifted the T20 silverware in the past.

‘Confident mood’

However, Cartledge insists that despite Staffordshire never having sampled finals day before, they travel with confidence that they can be crowned champions.

“It’s about individuals on the day. In 10 minutes, one man can take the game away from you,” said Cartledge.

“It’s fast and furious and everything is instantaneous. There’s no time to think ‘where are we?’. It’s just one over after another.

Staffordshire County Cricket Club have qualified for NCCA Twenty20 Cup finals day.
Staffordshire County Cricket Club have qualified for NCCA Twenty20 Cup finals day.

“You have to be on it all of the time, but you also know you’ve never lost a game. Even if you need 10 or 12 an over, you can have one which goes for 20 and you’re right back in things.

“We had that at Cheshire. We were well ahead and they hit a few sixes and all of a sudden the game could have gone either way. But we managed to defend our total in the end.

“I believe it’s about fine margins – a dropped catch, a mis-field or a couple of lucky edges which go for four.”


Cartledge is now hoping that fortune favours Staffordshire as they look to kick off their summer schedule with a first T20 title.

But he says, whatever unfolds, it is clear that Staffs have progressed in the format.

“I’m not surprised that we’ve got to finals day,” he declared. “The talent is there and we are a good side. Berkshire have always been in finals and our problem has been getting to that stage to play them.

“We have the opportunity to reach three finals this summer and we’ve ticked off the first one.

“We could lose in the semi-finals, but we stand as good a chance as the other three teams. It can be a bit of a lottery at times.

“You might need a bit of luck, but as it stands we are one of the four best teams in NCCA cricket in T20s. That’s a pretty good achievement.

“We’re going down there to win and we’ll see what happens.”

‘The chosen ones’

Staffordshire have named a 13-man squad for this Sunday’s trip south.

There is a first appearance of the season for Leek all-rounder Zen Malik, who has seen his commitments with Leicestershire affect his availability so far.

He’s in form as well, especially with the ball, having taken three five-wicket hauls in the opening four NSSCL Premier Division matches of the campaign.

“Zen is a very good player who will get runs for Leek. He’s been in the wickets already,” added Cartledge.

“A leg spinner can do that. He’s bowled more at Leek than he did at Burslem and he’s probably bowling at the right times as well. That can help a leg spinner.

“We played Warwickshire a few years ago in a friendly and they were murdering it. Zen came on and stopped them dead. He’s capable of that.

“You would have Zen in any side and it shows we’re in a good place and have players queuing up to play.”

Main image: Staffordshire County Cricket Club’s director of cricket Dave Cartledge, right, and former opening partner Steve Dean. Picture: Alfie Shenton