Day Two report: Bucks fizz leaves Staffordshire facing fight for survival

Tom Moulton made a battling 31 not out for Staffordshire.

Staffordshire face a final-day fight to save their NCCA Championship game against Buckinghamshire.

Staffs closed the second day at West Bromwich Dartmouth on 70-3 from 42 overs – still 52 runs in arrears of their impressive visitors.

It has been a largely disappointing two days for Staffs, who had opened up the Division One East season with a fine victory at Suffolk.

But that form hasn’t been translated to Sandwell Park. Newly-promoted Bucks have highlighted why they have won seven of their last nine three-day fixtures.

Bucks had progressed from 134-3 to 330-8 declared after a rain-delayed start on day two to carve out their healthy advantage.

That left Staffordshire with two-and-a-half hours to bat in the evening session. And despite losing openers Matthew Morris and James Kettleborough, plus Michael Hill, they did at least show fighting spirit.

Tom Moulton fronted the resistance with an unbeaten 31, which saw him face 108 balls and included five fours.

‘Sterling effort’

Heavy overnight rain meant a delayed start to the action. But West Bromwich Dartmouth’s groundstaff, led by Andy Cartwright, worked miracles. That ensured the action could get underway at 1.10pm.

Staffordshire had bowled poorly on the first evening, dropping too short and failing to test the Bucks batsmen on a wicket which did offer assistance if the ball was pitched up.

A lengthy team chat to hammer home plans was undertaken. Sadly the message didn’t quite click with the hosts’ seam attack. They struggled once again to hit the required length on the second afternoon.

The bright point from that point of view was left-armer Hill, who probed away in a six-over spell.

The overall performance scuppered any real prospect of the early breakthrough that they so desperately needed.

Bucks opener AJ Woodland, who had shown how to bowl on the wicket on his way to a four-for on day one, and the experienced Michael Payne accumulated runs with relative ease as they settled into their mission to power their side to 325 and maximum batting points.

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

Woodland had resumed on 34 and Payne on 16, although they were never troubled by Staffordshire’s bowlers in the formative stages of the day.

Such was the comfort with which they were batting that they raced past Staffordshire’s first-innings total of 208 without being parted.

In fact their stand for the fourth wicket was worth 137 before they were split. Woodland fired a return catch to spinner Tom Brett to depart for 65.

However, he had more than done his job of providing a platform for the visitors, with his 196-ball innings comprising eight fours.

‘Free role’

That allowed wicketkeeper-batsman Ross Richardson to come in and play freely as Buckinghamshire looked to accelerate to build a big lead.

To Staffs’ credit, the introduction of spin twins Brett and Anis Raza did help to stem the run-rate. That ensured the damage Staffordshire faced wasn’t as monumental as it could have been.

And with the score on 269, Staffs picked up their second wicket of the day. Payne rocked back to cut Raza, but only found the gloves of keeper Callum Hawkins.

He departed for 86, having struck 10 boundaries in his knock.

Anis Raza loving life with his Staffordshire spin twin

Richardson was in the mood for some fun, though. He hit a couple of huge sixes on his way to 42, while Ed Bragg chipped in with 33.

Richardson fell to an outstanding catch in the deep by Nils Priestley off Brett. Bragg was then caught and bowled by Raza.

And when Conner Haddow was bowled by Brett, Buckinghamshire declared to deny Staffordshire the chance to pocket full bowling bonus points.

Brett finished with figures of 3-83, while Raza ended with 2-56.

‘Tough job’

Staffordshire now faced the task of chipping away at their deficit, while also ensuring that they didn’t suffer too many losses in the evening session.

Batting proved to be a tough proposition for Staffs. That was not really surprising seeing as Buckinghamshire were hitting a consistent line and length.

They extracted movement, and were rewarded with an early scalp. Morris chased a wide delivery from seamer Bragg and nicked to Woodland in the slip cordon.

Kettleborough was fighting hard against a disciplined Bucks attack as opening bowler Cameron Parsons bowled 10 overs while conceding just four runs.

However, the Staffs captain did fall with the score on 45 when he was trapped lbw by Bragg for 27.

And there was a further blow to Staffs’ survival chances in the dying embers of the day. Hill was given out caught at leg slip by Woodland off spinner Haddow for 11. It was a decision which Hill was less than impressed with – and put Bucks firmly in control.

Moulton and nightwatchman Raza saw Staffs through to the close, but it will need a dramatic final day for Bucks to be denied victory.

Staffs have been outplayed for two days so far. And their impressive winning record at West Bromwich Dartmouth looks like coming to an end.

Picture: Tom Moulton fought valiantly to keep Staffordshire in the game against Buckinghamshire.