Day Two report: Captain saves Staffordshire after dramatic collapse

Staffordshire County Cricket Club captain James Kettleborough.

Staffordshire suffered one of their infamous third-innings collapses to leave their NCCA Championship match against Suffolk firmly in the balance.

Staffs looked to be sitting pretty after carving out a 106-run lead on the second day of the Division One East encounter at Bury St Edmunds.

However, after reaching 29-0 in their second innings at tea, they crumbled in the evening session to leave the door ajar for their East Anglian hosts.

It has happened time and again over recent seasons and seems to be an issue which they currently don’t have a definitive answer to.

They eventually closed on 167-8 – and will take a lead of 273 into the final day of the contest.

It was a mixture of good bowling, self-inflicted wounds and a touch of misfortune which contributed to Staffs tumbling from 70-1 to 107-6 as the evening drew in.

Matthew Morris was the first to go, with the score on 48, when he pulled a long hop from wrist spinner Freddie Heldreich to a tumbling Adam Mansfield at mid-on.

‘Wickets tumble’

But the carnage really started when Staffs lost Zen Malik, who advanced down the pitch to spinner Josh Cantrell and was bowled.

Michael Hill departed shortly after, a fine Cantrell delivery seeing him caught at slip by Jack Beaumont.

Callum Hawkins could count himself unlucky to be adjudged lbw to the spin of Beaumont, while two balls later Nils Priestley played no shot and was bowled leg stump.

Liam Hurt hung around for a while to make 10, but was then expertly pouched in the deep by Alex Cruickshank to earn Beaumont a third victim of a fast-paced evening session.

So thank goodness Staffordshire captain James Kettleborough managed to keep his head – although there was possibly an air of disbelief as he welcomed and waved off partners with alarming regularity.

Day One report: Kettleborough and Malik star on a promising first day

The pitch had started to offer more assistance to the bowlers, but Kettleborough repelled any demons and seemed, at times, to playing on a different wicket to his team-mates.

He didn’t look in any trouble at all, but having scored 92 – and with a second ton of the match in sight – he slapped a full toss from Heldreich to Ben Parker in the covers.

Kettleborough had, in all honesty, rescued Staffs, and put on 42 for the seventh wicket with Sam Atkinson, which may prove crucial in the grand scheme of things.

Atkinson belied his tender years to play impressively and reached the close on 21 not out.

‘Late blow’

But there was a further blow to Staffordshire in the final over of the day when Anis Raza offered no shot and was bowled by Cantrell.

Staffs had earlier bowled out the East Anglians for 281 in the middle of the afternoon to forge that three-figure lead.

It could have been even better for Staffordshire, who made 387-8 on day one, after they reduced the home side to 143-6 on the stroke of lunch.

However, Cantrell’s 67, plus a spirited 36 from Heldreich, ensured that Suffolk managed to close the gap as much as possible.

It was still a fine effort from Staffordshire’s bowlers, with seamer Liam Hurt claiming 3-69 and spin twins Tom Brett (2-99) and Anis Raza (3-48) sharing five wickets.

Liam Hurt picked up three wickets for Staffordshire.
Liam Hurt picked up three wickets for Staffordshire.

Suffolk had resumed the second day on 51-2 after losing openers Adam Mansfield and Jack Beaumont in the closing stages of the evening session.

And it wasn’t long before Staffordshire had some success to celebrate when nightwatchman Daniel Shanks inevitably fell to Hurt.

Hurt had been cranking up the pace to unsettle Shanks, but it was a fast, full delivery that shattered his stumps which did the trick to leave Suffolk on 64-3.

The key duo in Suffolk’s line-up – Alex Oxley and George Rhodes – were then in alliance, with Staffs desperate to split them before they could settle into their stride.

‘Key breakthrough’

They had advanced the score to 97 before young seamer Sam Atkinson struck. He tempted Oxley to push at a delivery and he only succeeded in edging to the bucket hands of Hurt at second slip to depart for 37.

Staffordshire skipper Kettleborough had turned to trusted left-arm spinner Brett early in the piece from the pavilion end, and his tireless work was rewarded midway through the morning action.

Rhodes, who had made 17, nicked a Brett delivery to the Staffs captain stationed at first slip to leave the East Anglians five wickets down.

And Staffordshire’s morning got even better with moments to go before the lunch break when Bren Claydon (25) fell victim to the same combination, much to Brett’s delight.

Suffolk lost their seventh wicket in the formative stages of the afternoon when Ben Parker was beaten by the searing pace of Hurt and had his stumps rearranged.

However, as is often the case at NCCA level, there is a stand or two lower down to frustrate a bowling side.

That came in the form of first Cantrell and wicketkeeper Andy Northcote’s partnership which helped to drag Suffolk beyond the 200-mark.

Their stand was worth 50 before slow left-armer Raza was rewarded for an excellent spell when Northcote chopped on for 18.

Cantrell, though, found another willing ally in Northants spinner Heldreich as Staffordshire were forced to bide their time for another breakthrough.

‘Josh leads the way’

The Suffolk pair played intelligently as they latched on to anything loose, but were largely content with knocking the ball around for singles.

Cantrell, playing on his home ground, chalked up a well-constructed half-century as Suffolk not only limited Staffs’ lead, but chased valuable bonus points.

They took the score up to 280, but with overs running out, they opted to chance their arm to score more precious runs.

Cantrell, having hit seven fours, attempted to take Raza down town, but could only find Hurt at long-on, who nonchalantly took the catch.

And just one run later, Heldreich look to stick the Staffs spinner over the ropes, but was pouched by Nils Priestley on the long-off boundary.

There was a tricky little spell for Kettleborough and Morris to face before the players broke for their sandwiches and cakes.

However, they managed to negotiate it without any concerns as Staffs refuelled on 29-0.

But then the wheels came off for Staffordshire, which ramped up the importance of Kettleborough’s innings, which came at a run-a-ball and contained 12 fours.

Suffolk were let back into the game by Staffs last year at Checkley – and went on to win.

Staffordshire will be hoping that history doesn’t repeat itself.

Main picture: James Kettleborough scored 92 in Staffordshire’s second innings. Image: Alfie Shenton