Day One report: Staffordshire forced to dig deep against Beds

Staffordshire batsman Tom Moulton

It was a day of delays, debuts and a special presentation for Staffordshire as they started their NCCA Championship programme yesterday.

The inclement weather at Checkley’s Four Trees ground meant the Division One East clash against Bedfordshire didn’t start until 4.30pm.

The two sides managed to squeeze in three hours’ of play which resulted in Staffordshire closing on 130-4 from 45 overs.

They lost skipper James Kettleborough, Matt Morris, Zen Malik and Joe Hawkins in the passage of play possible.

They won’t have been too disappointed with their efforts, though, in what were testing batting conditions at times.

‘Presentation time’

But it was matters off the field which also took centre stage for Staffordshire yesterday.

County captain Kettleborough was awarded his county cap in his second season with Staffs, presented with the accolade by president Nick Archer.

And there were a couple of debutants in the Staffs ranks with batsman Joe Hawkins, aged 17, and 19-year-old seamer Jacob Garlick both making their debuts.

Hawkins was presented with his match cap by older brother Callum, the Staffordshire keeper-batsman, with Garlick receiving his from head coach Andy Carr.

That meant there were three Moddershall & Oulton players in the Staffs side for the contest – and intriguingly one in the Bedfordshire ranks.

Staffordshire captain James Kettleborough celebrates the award of his county cap with wife Jenny and daughter Grace.
Staffordshire captain James Kettleborough celebrates the award of his county cap with wife Jenny and daughter Grace. Picture: Alfie Shenton

Former Staffs captain Sam Kelsall made his bow for the visitors, with another twist being he is the partner of the Hawkins’ sister Aimee.

So there was something of a family battle, as well as one for points, when the action finally managed to get underway late in the afternoon.

The Checkley groundstaff had worked tirelessly to get the ground fit for play as they dodged the showers to allow the NCCA red-ball programme to finally begin.

‘Batting duties’

It didn’t quite get off to the start Kettleborough would have wanted as he lost the toss and saw his side invited to bat by visiting skipper George Darlow.

Conditions looked conducive to bowling, which posed a big test to Staffordshire openers Kettleborough and Morris.

However, they rose to the challenge in fine fashion as they repelled the early bursts from former Kent man Matt Coles and Jack Fuller.

Staffordshire batsman Matt Morris
Staffordshire batsman Matt Morris shows his disappointment after being given out lbw. Picture: Alfie Shenton

The Staffs pair had to be watchful at times, but gradually found their stride as the sun beat down on the Moorlands ground.

And such was the relative comfort with which they were playing that it was a touch surprising when they were parted in the 24th over.

Kettleborough had started to run through his repertoire and was in touching distance of celebrating his county cap with a half-century when he was dismissed.

Having reached 48, he chopped on to seamer Sam Jarvis with the score on 77.

‘Quick double’

Jarvis impressed with the ball for Bedfordshire as he took pace of the ball and managed to get some swing to pose a few problems for the Staffordshire batsmen.

However, it was Jake Tarling who was the next to strike for the newly-promoted visitors when he accounted for Zen Malik.

Malik looked to flick a delivery from the paceman through mid-wicket, but could only find the hands of the tumbling Pat Harrington to depart for a duck.

Jacob Garlick is presented with his match cap by head coach Andy Carr
Jacob Garlick is presented with his match cap by head coach Andy Carr. Picture: Alfie Shenton

And Staffordshire’s solid start was in danger of unravelling when Morris became the third wicket to fall with the score on 90.

He was adjudged lbw to Jarvis, having made 33, a decision which left him visibly disappointed as he dragged himself from the pitch.

Bedfordshire now had their tails up and would have sensed further inroads as the returning Tom Moulton and debutant Joe Hawkins joined forces for the home side.

‘Digging deep’

Moulton, fresh from a century for the Development XI in their tie with Worcestershire last week, looked a calm and assured presence in the middle.

And Hawkins immediately looked at home at this level, despite his tender years, scoring his first runs in NCCA by pulling a ball from Kelsall to the boundary.

Hawkins patiently made his way to 19 as he settled into his task. But Kelsall exacted revenge.

With the score on 123, he trapped Hawkins lbw for 19.

Beds would have felt they could have added a scalp or two more to their afternoon’s work before the close.

However, Moulton stood firm, playing some impressive shots, to reach stumps on 23 not out, with Callum Hawkins yet to score.

Staffordshire still have 45 of their 90-over allocation left to bat on day two.

And with a more promising forecast, they will look to put a competitive total on the board.

Main image: Tom Moulton picks up runs for Staffordshire on the opening day against Bedfordshire. Picture: Alfie Shenton