Day One report: Staffordshire need something special after Bucks take control

Staffordshire County Cricket Club's Matthew Morris celebrates reaching his half-century against Buckinghamshire.

Staffordshire have plenty of work to do to drag themselves back into matters after coming second best on the opening day of their NCCA Championship clash against Buckinghamshire.

Staffs produced a largely disappointing batting performance on day one at West Bromwich Dartmouth after being put in.

They were bowled out for 206 and committed the cardinal sin of leaving more than 33 of their 90 overs unused.

Matthew Morris’ 71 was backed up by 46 from Nils Priestley and 32 from skipper James Kettleborough. But there wasn’t much else to shout about from a Staffordshire perspective.

There might have been several Staffs batsmen who played a significant part in their own downfalls. But credit must also go to Buckinghamshire’s attack.

They managed to hit a consistent line and length after an initial new-ball burst had hinted at a promising day for Staffs.

However, AJ Woodland found his rhythm to pick up 4-39, before left-arm spinner Conner Haddow helped himself to 3-0 in the space of 15 deliveries to wrap up the hosts’ innings.

And with themselves firmly in the driving seat, Buckinghamshire built on their recent momentum to close day one on 134-3.

Woodland (34no) himself played the anchor role to a tee. And former Worcestershire man Alexei Kervezee contributed a hard-hitting 47.

‘On the crest of a wave’

It should come as little surprise that Buckinghamshire turned in such an impressive opening-day performance.

They won Division Two East last season, claiming four successive victories, to earn their place at the top table.

They then kicked off life in Division One East with a home win against Norfolk to continue the feel-good factor.

But the landscape of the day could have been so different had Staffordshire capitalised on a solid start provided by openers Morris and Kettleborough.

Anis Raza loving life with his Staffordshire spin twin

In conditions which were bowler-friendly, Staffs negotiated the new-ball threat.

There was a slice or two of good fortune, but that is always required when opening up at this level.

It was the introduction of seamer Woodland into the attack which helped to turn the tables.

Having put on 77 for the first wicket, Kettleborough was the first wicket to fall. He tried to turn a delivery into the leg side, but could only get a leading edge back to Woodland.

However, Staffordshire wouldn’t have been too alarmed at that start given the circumstances. But the wicket of the Staffs captain rose levels in the Bucks camp.

‘Wonderful Woodland’

Woodland was a constant probing threat and in reasonable time had instigated Staffordshire’s downfall to 115-4.

Tom Moulton feathered an edge through to Ross Richardson as he claimed the first of a remarkable seven catches in the innings.

And the Bucks gloveman was back in the action when Michael Hill fell for a third-ball duck. He nicked a snorter of a delivery from Woodland through to Richardson.

A rain delay forced an early lunch, but the Woodland and Richardson combination were soon back in the swing of things in the afternoon as they teamed up to account for Callum Hawkins.

Through the disappointment of losing those four quick wickets, Morris had been a largely calming presence at the other end as he compiled a run-a-ball 50.

But having made 71 – hitting 14 fours – he couldn’t resist having a dabble at a Cameron Parsons delivery which found the edge through to Richardson.

‘Self-inflicted wounds’

That left Staffs 129-5, and although there were some handy efforts from the lower order, shot selection left a bit to be desired.

Priestley and Dan Richardson put on 21, before the latter nibbled at a Tom Hampton delivery to provide Richardson with another victim.

Liam Hurt hit a rapid 20 before falling to Tom Weymes with another catch behind. And it was then left to Haddow to mop up the tail.

He was a late introduction into the attack – and came into the match having taken 10 wickets against Norfolk.

Staffordshire County Cricket Club's Dan Richardson celebrates taking the wicket of Buckinghamshire batsman Ewan Cox.
Staffordshire County Cricket Club’s Dan Richardson celebrates taking the wicket of Buckinghamshire batsman Ewan Cox. Picture: Alfie Shenton

But his quickfire treble ensured that Staffordshire lost their last three wickets for just four runs.

Scott Winnington spooned a ball up into the air to be pouched by Hampton at mid-off on the stroke of tea,

And proceedings were dealt with clinically on the resumption by Buckinghamshire’s bowlers.

Priestley rocked back to cut Haddow and was caught behind, before Anis Raza fell in the covers.

‘Inconsistent start’

Staffordshire bowled too short in the early stages of the Bucks reply. It was crystal clear that bowling a fuller length could reap rewards.

In fact, Richardson made the breakthrough when he nicked off Ewan Cox, who had scored 23 of the 27 runs accumulated at that juncture.

The penny appeared to have dropped and Hurt soon earned a scalp. Hawkins claimed his second catch of the innings as Chris Marrow edged through.

Staffordshire open up Championship season with victory at Suffolk

Bucks were 38-2 at that point. But Kervezee came on with an attacking intent as he looked to put the pressure back on the Staffs bowlers.

He produced some sweetly-timed drives and pulls, although in touching distance of his half-century he was bowled by Winnington.

Staffordshire desperately craved more success before the close, but it wasn’t forthcoming.

Woodland will resume on day two with the experienced Michael Payne (16no) for company.

And it will take something special from Staffordshire to knock Bucks out of their stride.

Picture: Matthew Morris celebrates reaching his half-century for Staffordshire on day one against Buckinghamshire. Image: Alfie Shenton