It’s another bad Trophy day for Staffs as Herefordshire ease to win

Staffordshire County Cricket Club's Matt Morris.

Staffordshire’s Knockout Trophy hopes have been left hanging by a thread after another bad day at the office saw them beaten by Herefordshire.

Staffs suffered their second defeat in three Group Two outings at Eastnor yesterday as the hosts secured a six-wicket win in relative comfort.

Head coach Andy Carr had demanded a reaction from his players after they were outplayed by Norfolk seven days’ prior.

But what he witnessed was his side following the same script as a below-par batting performance saw them skittled for 163.

Only Matt Morris, who made 51, emerged with any real credit from a Staffordshire batting perspective.

Herefordshire then made the most of the powerplay. And although they lost three wickets for seven runs later on, they were never truly in trouble.

That leaves Staffordshire needing to beat Shropshire in their final match on June 23 – and hope results go their way in order to reach the quarter-finals of the NCCA 50-over competition.

However, those aspirations appear somewhat faint after the last two performances Staffordshire have turned in.

The prospects of a positive Knockout Trophy campaign were raised by an opening-round win at Suffolk.

An old-school approach of batting long and taking advantage of the final overs before applying scoreboard pressure with the ball reaped rewards on that day at Mildenhall. It now seems to have been a false dawn.

‘Same story’

The last two matches against Norfolk and Herefordshire have seen Staffs revert to type to all-but signal the end of this year’s 50-over journey.

Staffs had been reduced to 58-4 in losing to Norfolk at Smethwick last week before eventually being dismissed for 157.

Carr and skipper James Kettleborough insisted in the build up to the trip to Herefordshire that more responsibility needed to be taken by the top order to give Staffs a solid platform.

Their situation was even worse at Eastnor, though, as they fell to 30-4 inside 12 overs after Kettleborough had won the toss and elected to bat.

Herefordshire’s new-ball pair of Sam Keeling-Wright and James Rudge extracted some movement from the pitch while also making use of the overhead conditions.

And it took just six balls for Staffordshire’s day to head on a downward slope.

Staffordshire County Cricket Club all-rounder Nils Priestley
Nils Priestley made 22 for Staffordshire in the defeat by Herefordshire. Picture: Pete Stonier

Callum Hawkins fell for a duck when he edged a Keeling-Wright delivery to keeper Luke Powell.

That really set the tone for the formative stages of Staffs’ innings.

Captain Kettleborough was soon trudging his way back to the pavilion. He was accounted for by Rudge for two.

And 7-2 soon developed into something far worse for the visitors as Michael Hill and Zen Malik departed in quick succession.

Hill (12) could do little about a devilish delivery from Keeling-Wright which bowled him. However, Malik (10) would have been disappointed with the shot he played to fall lbw to Rudge.

Carr has always preached about someone being able to dig in to stop the bleeding after early wickets fall.

‘Recovery mission’

Staffordshire were on the brink of haemorrhaging at that stage. But Morris and Reeve Evitts linked up to attempt to repel Herefordshire’s dominant attack.

Their options were somewhat limited, however, as survival and rebuilding was the name of the game rather than deploying any extravagant stroke play.

There was the odd boundary thrown in, but it was more a case of trying to keep the scoreboard ticking over to provide some sort of platform for a late dart.

The pair put on 42 in roughly 14 overs, but were parted when Evitts (13) fell.

He looked to be caught in two minds as to how to play a delivery from seamer Toby Cox. He only succeeded in edging to Ben Chapman-Lilley, who took an acrobatic catch at slip.

Nils Priestley, who had been pushed down the order, settled in with Morris to put the wheels in motion for a decent stand.

He struck three fours, but having reached 22, he succumbed to Taylor Cornall as Staffordshire found themselves 110-6.

Liam Hurt (7) and Sam Atkinson (12) made brief forays to the crease, while Morris was now welcoming and waving farewell to partners.

‘Battling on’

The Westhoughton left-hander did reach a deserved half-century, featuring four fours. But he became the ninth wicket to fall.

He was castled by paceman Cox to leave Staffordshire 154-9.

And the innings was wrapped up with nine runs added when Rudge bowled Tom Brett.

Rudge finished with fine figures of 3-29, with Cox performing even better to scalp 3-24.

As in last weekend’s loss to Norfolk, Staffs hunted early wickets to try to put pressure on Herefordshire.

Staffordshire County Cricket Club's Tom Brett
Staffordshire County Cricket Club’s Tom Brett took a couple of wickets. Picture: Pete Stonier

But, just as in last Sunday’s fixture, they were not forthcoming. Former Worcestershire player Cornall and Chapman-Lilley took the sting out of the Staffs attack.

In general Staffs’ seamers struggled to extract the same sort of assistance as their Herefordshire counterparts.

And when the powerplay ended in the 10th over, the hosts were already 55-0.

‘Belated breakthrough’

The score was advanced to 76 in the 13th before the partnership was broken.

Cornall (49) was in touching distance of a half-century when he was caught by Atkinson off spinner Tom Brett.

That was the first of three wickets to fall quickly, which might have reignited Staffs’ hopes of pulling off an unlikely win.

Daniyal Khan was bowled by Atkinson for five, before Nick Hammond was trapped lbw by Brett for just a single.

Those faint hopes were soon extinguished, though. Chapman-Lilley and the vastly-experienced Matt Pardoe slammed the door shut on the visitors.

Chapman-Lilley reached 54, which contained 11 boundaries, when he was bowled by Morris.

At 125-4, Pardoe was in no mood to let his side’s advantage slip.

He helped himself to an unbeaten 35, with Ollie Walker making 14 not out, to steer Herefordshire to victory with more than 17 overs remaining.

‘Hopes fade’

It turned out to be another day to forget for Staffordshire as their bid to prove that the defeat by Norfolk was a blip fell flat.

They still have a minute chance of advancing to the next stage. But they would need to beat Shropshire first to stand any chance.

And given the performances over the last two weeks, even that looks a tough ask. That’s even before other results come into play.

Head coach Carr and skipper Kettleborough have plenty to ponder once again.

The same areas which Staffs had fallen short in during their last outing were in evidence.

It really was a case of different week, same outcome for Staffordshire.

Main image: Matt Morris top-scored for Staffordshire in the Knockout Trophy loss to Herefordshire. Picture: Pete Stonier