James Kettleborough delighted as Staffs break first-class duck

Staffordshire County Cricket Club captain James Kettleborough, right, shakes hands with Leicestershire skipper Lewis Hill

James Kettleborough admitted it was a ‘nice feather in the cap’ for Staffordshire after they defeated Leicestershire in their NCCA Showcase Game.

Staffordshire prevailed under the Duckworth-Lewis-Stern method in Sunday’s encounter at Knypersley.

They had reached 102-2 from 17 overs in reply to the Foxes’ 304-7 from their 50 – and sat two runs clear of where they needed to be when the rain forced the match to be abandoned.

That also marked the first time Staffs had ever beaten a first-class county. The closest they had previously come was a two-run loss to Sussex at Stone in the Gillette Cup in 1978.

“It’s really satisfying,” said Staffs skipper Kettleborough. “In my experience of Showcase Games it’s a really good day out and a chance to test yourself against the pros.

“We’ve managed to compete with Leicestershire and come away with a win. It’s a nice feather in our cap.

“Afterwards there was a bitter-sweet feeling because I would have loved to have seen how the match played out.

“We have a talented batting line-up and we had put ourselves in a good position to chase down the total.

“But the rules are the rules and we have to take that as a victory.”

‘Fighting back’

Leicestershire had fallen from 56-0 to 58-3 at Tunstall Road before Colin Ackermann (116), Wiaan Mulder (52), Peter Handscomb (37) and Louis Kimber (30no) helped them to their big total.

Staffs performed well with the ball, with Liam Hurt taking four wickets, Rory Haydon a couple and the other being a debut scalp for Wolverhampton seamer Pip Jackson.

“The guys did brilliantly. They got off to a good start, but we managed to peg them back,” added Kettleborough.

“But they were always going to get up to a decent score in the end.

Staffordshire take the Showcase honours after rain ends Leicestershire clash

“When Ackermann and Handscomb were batting you think ‘if we can get one of these quickly’. But then you realise they’ve still got Mulder and Kimber to come.

“They would have been happy with 300, but we weren’t dissatisfied with that total either.

“I thought Pip bowled really well. I’d seen him a couple of times for the under-21s and knew what he was about.

Staffordshire County Cricket Club's Pip Jackson
Staffordshire County Cricket Club’s Pip Jackson bowled impressively on his county debut. Picture; Alfie Shenton

“It was a tough game to come into, but him and Rory dragged it back really well. He should be proud of how he performed.

“It was a good opportunity to show what he’s all about and he’s done himself no harm at all.”

‘Captain’s knock’

Kettleborough himself was also in fine fettle as he made 63 not out in Staffordshire’s shortened response.

That continued his good run of form in the Showcase fixtures after he plundered an unbeaten 192 for Bedfordshire against Northamptonshire in 2022.

“It’s different facing first-class bowlers to the ones we do at NCCA level,” said Kettleborough, who played professionally for Northants and Glamorgan.

“It’s difficult to describe, but they have different skills and more pace on the ball.

“I’ve had experience of playing first-class, so I knew what to expect, although it’s still nice to contribute.”

‘Three-day mission’

Staffs shift their focus to the serious business this weekend when they head to play Norfolk at Norwich’s Manor Park.

Staffordshire opened up their Division One East campaign with victory at Suffolk. But were then well beaten by Buckinghamshire at West Bromwich Dartmouth.

That leaves them needing to win both remaining games – against Norfolk and Lincolnshire – to stand any chance to topping the table.

“We spoke after the Bucks game about the areas that we needed to put right,” explained Kettleborough.

“But we had the Showcase Game to let us forget about the red-ball stuff and play with a bit of freedom.

“The win against Leicestershire will give us confidence, and I’m looking for a positive reaction from the Bucks game when we head to Norfolk this weekend.”

Staffs are yet to confirm their squad for the trip to East Anglia, but changes are expected to the party following the loss to Buckinghamshire.

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

Picture: Staffordshire captain James Kettleborough, right, shakes hands with Leicestershire skipper Lewis Hill. Image: Alfie Shenton