Day one report: Kettleborough and Malik star on a promising day

Staffordshire County Cricket Club captain James Kettleborough.

James Kettleborough marked his Staffordshire Championship debut with a sparkling century on the opening day of the NCCA Division One East game against Suffolk.

Kettleborough, one of seven players making their three-day bows for the county, compiled 141 as Staffordshire posted 387-8 declared at Bury St Edmunds.

Zen Malik (81), Matthew Morris (54) and Michael Hill (30) were also in fine fettle as Staffs banked maximum batting points.

And Staffs then enjoyed double success in the closing stages of the day as Suffolk drew stumps on 51-2 from 19 overs.

As well as Kettleborough, Staffordshire handed Championship debuts to Callum Hawkins, Nils Priestley, Liam Hurt, Sam Atkinson, Rory Haydon and Tom Brett.

It was the skipper himself who took the bull by the horns to lay down a marker as he led the side for the first time in three-dayers.

He doesn’t really have anything to prove to NCCA onlookers, but the Staffs captain has always been a player to push himself.

‘Making his mark’

Kettleborough would have desperately wanted to kick off his stewardship of the Championship side with a sizeable contribution.

He looked in the mood from the word go – a steely determination if you will – to provide a platform for the county.

Morris was also a man on a mission as he joined Kettleborough in batting throughout the entire morning session.

Morris did have a couple of pieces of luck, being put down twice before lunch. But he capitalised on that fortune to reach the interval on 53 not out.

Kettleborough was intent on seeing off the new ball. He then unleashed some glorious shots on his way to being unbeaten on 55 at lunch.

That left Staffordshire on 120-0 at the first break. Matters were perfectly placed for them to motor on in the afternoon session.

However, Morris only added one more run to his score on the resumption. He became Suffolk’s first victim of the contest when he was bowled by spinner George Rhodes. He hit eight fours in his innings.

Zen Malik made 81 on the opening day against Suffolk at Bury St Edmunds.
Zen Malik made 81 on the opening day against Suffolk at Bury St Edmunds.

He had done his job, though, and that allowed Zen Malik to settle into affairs in the middle.

If Suffolk thought the dismissal of Morris might open the door for them, they were sadly mistaken. Kettleborough and Malik compiled a second-wicket stand of 159.

Kettleborough brought up his first Staffordshire Championship ton off 162 balls. And he continued to make serene progress throughout the afternoon.

So it was something of a surprise that he fell when he was caught at mid-off by Ben Claydon off Alex Cruickshank.

His superb knock contained 16 fours. And there was an air of disappointment as he trudged off the pitch that hadn’t managed to go even bigger.

‘Big ovation’

Staffs were 284-2 as Kettleborough departed to a fine ovation from the Bury St Edmunds crowd, healthily filled with travelling Staffordshire supporters.

Malik looked like he was setting sail to a century of his own. But on the stroke of tea, he was bowled by Northamptonshire Freddie Heldreich. Staffs tucked into their sandwiches on 309-3 with 12 overs still remaining.

There were no issues for Staffordshire in reaching 325 to secure full batting points. But there was an element of them losing their way in the dying embers of the innings.

They had slowed a touch before the interval, but a score well in excess of 400 looked to be on the cards at one juncture.

However, the last few overs belonged to Heldreich as he helped himself to a five-wicket haul on his Suffolk red-ball debut.

Callum Hawkins fell for 14 attempting to reverse sweep, before Hill was trapped lbw, leaving Staffordshire on 346-5.

Sam Atkinson (17) and Liam Hurt (14) both fell to the left-arm chinaman, who ended up finishing with figures of 5-117.

Nils Priestley, the star of Staffordshire’s Twenty20 Cup campaign, was also a victim, but it was Daniel Shanks was pinned him in front.

Kettleborough called in his charges with one of their allotted 90 overs to go. That denied Suffolk the chance to get full bowling points.

‘Wicket hunt’

So attention turned to whether Staffordshire could make any inroads into the home side’s line-up.

It’s a no-win situation for the batting side as they play for the close – and Staffs managed to dislodge two of their top order before stumps were drawn.

Adam Mansfield was the first to go when he nicked a Hurt delivery through to Hawkins to leave Suffolk on 19-1.

Home skipper Jack Beaumont looked to be in good touch. He rode out a few short deliveries from Hurt and managed to put away anything loose.

But with just minutes to go in the day’s play, Rory Haydon put the icing on the cake.

The paceman bowled Beaumont, offering no shot, for 26 as Suffolk wandered off the pitch on 51-2.

Staffordshire would have loved to have taken another wicket before the close, but perhaps that’s being greedy.

However, there’s no doubt that their opening-day performance will certainly have ticked a lot of boxes for captain Kettleborough.

Main image: James Kettleborough scored 141 on the opening day against Suffolk at Bury St Edmunds. Picture: Alfie Shenton