Dave Cartledge urges Staffordshire to focus on their own task

Staffordshire County Cricket Club director of cricket Dave Cartledge.

Dave Cartledge wants Staffordshire to deal with their own business to set up a potentially nerve-jangling end to the NCCA Division One East title race.

A week of twists and turns in the division saw leaders Buckinghamshire’s game against Lincolnshire abandoned on the final day because of the weather – and the hosts looked well on course for victory at Chesham.

And with Staffordshire defying a first-day wash-out to beat Norfolk by 10 wickets, that has blown the race for top spot wide open.

Bucks’ lead has been trimmed from 18 points to eight, but they miss out on this weekend’s round of fixtures.

Staffordshire complete their league programme against Lincs at Checkley, needing 21 points or more to leave Bucks needing to win their final match a week later to be crowned champions.

But that might be no easy task considering the current table-toppers wind up their campaign with a trip to Copdock to take on Suffolk.

‘Tough place to go’

“If we win our match, then Bucks have to go to Suffolk and win,” said director of cricket Cartledge.

“I think Copdock is a difficult place to get a win, but before that we’ve got to beat Lincolnshire.

“They’ve got to come and play against us because they face Norfolk in the last match. That could be a shoot-out as to who drops down.

“There is the potential that we could set Buckinghamshire a problem. I’m sure they will be watching our match closely.

James Kettleborough eager for Staffordshire to increase NCCA title pressure

“Bucks had more or less got it wrapped up because they would have beaten Lincs if they had played on the last day.

“But now that’s been snatched away from them – although regardless of what happens they’ve had a great season after just coming up.

“However, if we manage to win at Checkley, then it’s certainly ‘game on’ in the title race.”

‘Impressive effort’

Cartledge was also full of praise for the players after they managed to beat Norfolk in just two days of play.

The first day was called off after water seeped on to the wicket, but that didn’t stop Staffordshire in their Manor Park mission.

They bowled Norfolk out for 142 in their first innings before replying with 247-9 declared.

Staffs then skittled the East Anglians for 138 second time around to leave Staffs needing just 34 runs for victory.

Staffordshire County Cricket Club seamer Liam Hurt
Liam Hurt impressed in Staffordshire’s victory over Norfolk. Picture: Alfie Shenton

“It was a case of how many we could get in front of them,” explained Cartledge. “We felt that we needed at least 100 and we managed to do that.

“After losing to Bucks at West Brom we’d have certainly taken the position we’re in at the moment.

“We bowled very well. Tom (Brett) got five wickets in the first innings and Anis (Raza) got five in the second.

“Hurty (Liam Hurt) has also chipped in and done brilliantly for us to get some key breakthroughs.”

‘Patient approach’

A stubborn second-innings partnership between Ethan Metcalf and Ben Wilcox stalled Staffordshire for a while.

But Staffs managed to find a way through and work their way down the Norfolk line-up.

“We’ve been there before. You can even get to tea with the opposition just three wickets down,” added Cartledge.

“People then go home because they think it will be a draw. But a couple of wickets after tea and you’re into the bowlers. That is what happened and we ended up chasing 34. In the last 17 overs we’d have been happy going for 80 or 90.”

Staffordshire have named an unchanged side for this weekend’s game against Lincolnshire, which starts on Sunday.

And Cartledge believes there are more gears for his side to go through.

“There’s a few who are still to come to the party, but it’s up to the more experienced lads to help them through,” said Cartledge.

“At certain times you need to take control and the experienced ones need to realise that.

“It’s positive to name an unchanged team and I think there’s a good balance about it.

“We’re playing back-to-back games, but you look at the two young seamers, Sam Atkinson and Rory Haydon, and they didn’t bowl a huge amount at Norfolk.

“They bowled superbly, but didn’t get the success they deserved. But that means they will be fresh for this weekend.”

Image: Director of cricket Dave Cartledge says Staffordshire must focus on winning their clash with Lincolnshire.