‘I let my team-mates down last week. I want to put that right’

Staffordshire County Cricket Club captain James Kettleborough

James Kettleborough admits he’s on a personal mission to right some wrongs when he takes Staffordshire down to Dorset this weekend.

Staffs make the long journey to Bashley for their latest NCCA Knockout Trophy Group Four encounter – and the 200-mile trip will give the county captain plenty of time to think.

Not that he probably needs any additional minutes to mull over how Staffordshire can put their 50-over campaign back on track on the edge of the New Forest.

Last Sunday’s defeat by Wiltshire at Smethwick proved to be a setback – and it was one which Kettleborough took pretty personally.

After winning the toss and opting to bat, Kettleborough was one of three quick wickets to fall as Staffs stumbled to 24-3.

They recovered to 214 all out, but that target never tested Wiltshire. They recorded a comfortable seven-wicket win with six overs to spare.

Staffordshire had failed to perform to their capabilities, but Kettleborough was only focused on analysing the performance of one man – himself.

He did countless laps of Smethwick’s ground on his own, deep in thought, as he came to terms with the disappointment of his own dismissal.


“I’ve done quite a lot of reflection and I’m disappointed because we want to win every game,” said the 30-year-old. “We were a few per cent short in all disciplines. That all adds up to settle how the game turned out. Wiltshire played well and deserved to win.

“I wasn’t frustrated with the lads because I know they will always give myself and Andy (Carr, head coach) 100 per cent. No-one means to fail.

“I was more disappointed with myself. I am in the fortunate position to be able to influence the game as both a captain and a batsman. And on both fronts I made mistakes which contributed to the result.”

Staffordshire County Cricket Club head coach Andy Carr, left, and captain James Kettleborough with the NCCA Twenty20 Cup
Head coach Andy Carr, left, and captain James Kettleborough with the NCCA Twenty20 Cup

He might not agree, but Kettleborough is being extremely harsh on himself following the defeat.

After all, in his first season as captain he has already brought the T20 Cup to Staffs after a memorable day at Tring Park.

But the Checkley leader is a cricket nut – a man who strives for perfection.

The Wiltshire defeat was a disappointment for Staffordshire after they had opened the group stages with victory over Wales at Port Talbot.

‘Wrong call’

And Kettleborough pointed out the key areas he believed he fell short in… even going as far to say that he had ‘let his team-mates down’.

“I think I got the toss wrong and should have bowled first. Some of my field placings were not quite right either. I got a good ball, but it was frustrating not to get any runs.

“I’ve spent most of the week dwelling on the mistakes I made and I’m really keen to put things right as a captain and a batter at the weekend.

“You do learn from your mistakes. You want to perform for your team and don’t want to let your mates down. I felt I did let them down against Wiltshire.

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“I’m in the privileged position of having the honour of captaining the county. I got lots of plaudits after we won T20 finals day and I was happy to accept those.

“But I’m also willing to accept when I get things wrong. I said to the group after the game that I will make mistakes. It’s about learning from them.”

It seemed initially as though Kettleborough had made the right call when he won the toss last Sunday.

‘Early setbacks’

However, left-arm seamer Josh Croom bowled beautifully on his way to figures of 5-32. That included ripping out the top three of Callum Hawkins, Peter Wilshaw and Kettleborough.

“If anything the wicket got better as the day went on. Wiltshire made the most of the conditions in the morning and I should have done that,” added the Staffs skipper.

“No-one will know if that would have changed the result if I’d opted to bowl first. But being three down inside 10 overs put us under pressure.

“Parts of me were torn. I’d been to watch Warwickshire Under-18s at the ground the previous week. And although it was a different strip it still had a bit in it.

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“But the sun was out and it was a good batting wicket when we played a development match there last season.”

Despite only posting 214 – a recovery led by Matthew Morris’ 71 not out and Michael Hill’s 63 – it looked as though Staffordshire still had a slight chance of making it two wins out of two as they reduced Wiltshire to 103-3.

However, from that point, Tom Cullen and Ben Draper compiled unbeaten half-centuries to steer their side over the line in relative comfort.

‘Class acts’

“Hilly and Matty showed their experience between them and played the situation brilliantly,” said Kettleborough.

“It was unfortunate that Hilly got out when he did because he was just looking to kick on. But they both showed their class.

“I had lots of belief that we could restrict Wiltshire at the halfway stage. At 103-3, if we could have got another couple of wickets quickly we could have applied a bit of pressure.

“But they ticked over nicely and killed the game really well.”

‘Key clash’

That means Staffordshire realistically need to win Sunday’s game at Dorset and their final clash at home against Buckinghamshire if they are to qualify.

Dorset are, in many eyes, seen as favourites to top the group. But Kettleborough is confident that Staffordshire can bounce back.

“Wiltshire looked a really good side, they have an experienced captain in Ed Young, so credit to them,” added Kettleborough.

“It puts a lot of emphasis on Sunday’s game, but that can be a good thing. We’ve got to be on it, clear our minds about what we need to do.

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“We don’t become a bad team overnight. We were poor, but not horrifically bad against Wiltshire.

“I have so much belief in this group and they have been brilliant during our good run of form.

“There’s no reason why we can’t put things right and go down to Dorset and give them a really good game of cricket.”

Staffordshire have made one change to their 12-man squad for this weekend’s trip to Dorset. All-rounder Nils Priestley replaces Scott Winnington.

Main picture: Staffordshire County Cricket Club captain James Kettleborough is a man on a mission. Image: Alfie Shenton

James Kettleborough is being kindly sponsored by Sharp, Cross & Mann Solicitors for the 2023 season.