Day One report: Brilliant Brett steals the show on opening day against Lincs

Staffordshire spinner Tom Brett

Tom Brett helped himself to seven wickets from a marathon spell on the opening day of Staffordshire’s NCCA Championship encounter against Lincolnshire.

The Staffs left-arm spinner toiled away for 36 overs to take 7-93 as Lincolnshire were bowled out for 281 in the Division One East match at Checkley.

Staffordshire need to win their final match of the league programme to stand any chance of topping the standings and advancing to the Championship final.

A haul of 21 points or more would see Buckinghamshire need to win their last game at Suffolk next weekend to win the divisional title.

And Staffordshire managed to get four bowling points on the board, despite Lincs – needing their own reward in their battle for survival – offered stubborn resistance throughout the day.

Skipper Tom Keast was the glue which held the Imp County’s innings together with a well-crafted 93, before he fell to Brett thanks to one of two spectacular catches by the returning Peter Wilshaw.

Ben Wright (50), Joe Pocklington (36) and Drew Sylvester (34) all made handy contributions, but there was a tough of inexperience about Lincs’ lower order as they slipped from 226-4 to their final tally.

Staffordshire then replied with 54-0 to set themselves up positively for the second day.

‘Big call’

With rain delaying the start by 15 minutes, Staffs skipper James Kettleborough won the toss and invited Lincs to bat under overcast skies.

And Staffordshire made a dream start when Sam Atkinson got some nibble to Qundeel Haider and he nicked the ball to a diving Liam Hurt at second slip.

That was the start of an impressive fielding display by the hosts, with patience the watchword on a pitch which didn’t offer too much for the seamers and required hard work and toil to reap rewards.

It was evident as Sylvester and Wright settled in to the task to negate the new-ball threat posed by Staffordshire’s seamers.

Staffordshire seamer Rory Haydon
Staffordshire seamer Rory Haydon appeals for lbw on the opening day. Picture: Alfie Shenton

The pair managed to advance the score from four to 53, before Brett – handed an early introduction into the attack – claimed his first scalp of a productive day.

He tempted Sylvester to feather a catch through to keeper Callum Hawkins to earn Staffs more reward.

But runs were always there for the batters, on a slow pitch but a fast outfield – a remarkable outcome considering the recent rain.

Lincolnshire took lunch on 106-2 and would have been happy with their lot considering they had been asked to bat.

‘Same again’

And it was more of the same in the afternoon session as Staffordshire had to be patient to chip away at the visitors’ line-up.

Lincs never really got away from the home side, but were more content to steadily build a platform with Keast at the forefront of that effort.

However, he was looking for a new partner with the score on 124 when Wright, having just completed his half-century, was bowled by Brett.

There was a window of opportunity for Staffordshire shortly after when a superb delivery from Sam Atkinson skittled Jordan Cook to leave Lincs on 149-4.

Staffordshire captain James Kettleborough
Staffordshire captain James Kettleborough finished the day unbeaten on 40. Picture: Alfie Shenton

But Keast was an unflustered presence at the crease for the visitors, as he compiled a fifth-wicket stand of 77 with Pocklington either side of the tea interval.

The evening session did belong to Staffs, who managed to work their way through the Lincolnshire order.

Pocklington gave them some assistance as he danced down the wicket to Brett, had a wild swing, and was stumped smartly by Hawkins.

All eyes were then on Keast to see whether he could not only complete what would be a deserved ton, but also guide Lincs to maximum batting points.

‘Fantastic fielding’

But in the space of one Brett over, Wilshaw joined the party with some excellent fielding to earn Brett two more scalps.

Firstly, Savraj Nijjar looked to take Brett down town, but found the safe hands of Wilshaw running around from mid-off.

Better was to come five balls later, though, when Keast tried to go over the top, but hadn’t banked on Wilshaw making good ground and taking a diving catch heading towards the long-off boundary.

That completed Brett’s five-wicket haul – and left Lincolnshire 243-7 – but the slow left-armer wasn’t finished there.

Josh Knapton and Ravi Yarwood-Paintal fell to him as the visitors looked for quick runs, before Hurt wrapped up the innings by dismissing Joshua Joy.

That left Staffordshire facing the customary tricky spell before the close – and there was the odd heart-stopping moment before stumps were drawn.

Kettleborough was dropped, while he and opening partner Matthew Morris had to survive a probing spell from former Notts quick Mark Footitt.

However, despite Lincs bowling impressively, Staffs managed to make it through to the close. Kettleborough will resume on 40 not out, with Morris unbeaten on 11.

Image: Tom Brett celebrates one of his seven wickets on the opening day against Lincolnshire. Picture: Alfie Shenton