James Kettleborough: All we can do is look after ourselves

Staffordshire County Cricket Club captain James Kettleborough.

James Kettleborough insists Staffordshire must solely focus on their dealing with their own NCCA Knockout Trophy business this weekend.

Staffs wrap up their Group Four campaign against Buckinghamshire at Moddershall & Oulton on Sunday, knowing they need to win to keep alive their hopes of qualifying for the quarter-finals.

Wiltshire have already secured one of the two places, but even if Staffs win, they will face an anxious wait to find out if they have done enough with the other four teams completing their programmes next weekend.

Staffordshire kicked off their 50-over campaign by beating Wales at Port Talbot. But they were then comfortably defeated by Wiltshire at Smethwick.

And their bid to bounce back from that loss was scuppered last Sunday when the game at Dorset was washed out.

“There’s been a conversation about what we need to do and if we win, by how much,” said Staffs skipper Kettleborough.

“But the sole focus is trying to get a win from the game. If we have the luxury of being in the position where we can record a big win, that’s great.

“The most important thing, though, is getting the victory and then seeing where we are.

“It was frustrating not to get on last week. We’ve had really good weather and then to get rain like that was incredible.

“At 11am most of the ground was under water. The fact there was a faint hope of play in the afternoon was a miracle in itself.

“On the back of that, things have been taken out of our hands and it was frustrating because we wanted to bounce back after the defeat by Wiltshire.

“We wanted to put things right as a group, but the rain has put a delay on it.”

‘Not firing on all cylinders’

Staffordshire went into the Knockout Trophy on a high after being crowned NCCA Twenty20 Cup champions.

However, their batting has failed to hit the heights in the two matches so far. They have registered scores of 188 against Wales and 214 against Wiltshire.

Those encounters are in the past, and Kettleborough is now focusing his sights on banking the two points on offer this weekend.

“After T20 finals day, we went to Wales and played Wiltshire, so was there an element of fatigue?” added Kettleborough.

“Not having a game last Sunday might have given the lads a chance to recharge, even though it was a long way to travel for a no result.

“We spoke after Wales and said it’s always a good sign when you don’t play your best cricket, but manage to get a win.

“We’ve not played at our best in the 50-over competition, although that’s more down to the batting.

“The Wales game came quickly after the T20s and we probably went too hard too quickly in that match.

“Wiltshire was different because they put us on the back foot because they made the most of the early conditions.

“We will see what happens. We could win the game on Sunday and still end up not qualifying despite only losing one game.

“It would be a blow not to go through. All of the teams in the country start the campaign wanting to qualify for the quarter-finals.

“We arguably had the rub of the green with the weather in the T20s and it might go against us in the 50-over format. That’s cricket.”

‘Squad change’

Staffordshire have made one change to their squad this weekend with Scott Winnington replacing Peter Wilshaw.

Kettleborough says it was a tough decision to leave the experienced Wilshaw out of the party.

“It was an incredibly tricky call to make to leave out Pete,” explained Kettleborough.

“People don’t need me to tell them how good he is and he’s been immeasurably valuable to me as captain.

“But he would be the first to say that he’s not scored the amount of runs that he’d have liked.

“If we’re picking an XI without Pete in it, it must show we’ve got a good side, but I’m sure he will bounce back.

“It’s not a case of easing him out or anything like that.

“Pete’s longevity is a credit to him and Staffordshire cricket and Peter Wilshaw go hand in hand. It’s not the end of the line for him.

“Nils Priestley has come back into the squad and we looked how to best fit him in the side.

“Callum Leese made his debut against Wiltshire and it would not be fait to make a judgement on him after just one game.”

‘Big decision’

That means Callum Hawkins will have a new opening partner against Buckinghamshire.

Nils Priestley or Matthew Morris appear to be the two players most likely to be in the frame to join the wicketkeeper up front.

Priestley had an outstanding T20 campaign opening the innings. Morris made 83 opening for the Development XI in their defeat by North Wales this week.

“We’ve got so many options in our top six, so nothing has been finalised yet,” said Kettleborough.

“Nils is a really positive option to open, while Matty did himself no harm after the way he played in midweek.”

Buckinghamshire make the trip to Moddershall & Oulton searching for their first win after losing their opening two encounters.

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

Picture: Staffordshire County Cricket Club captain James Kettleborough. Image: Alfie Shenton