James Kettleborough issues rallying call ahead of Shropshire test

Staffordshire County Cricket Club captain James Kettleborough.

James Kettleborough insists Staffordshire can’t afford to feel sorry for themselves as they look to make a final-day leap into the NCCA Knockout Trophy quarter-finals.

Staffs opened up their 50-over campaign with a resounding win against Suffolk at Mildenhall.

However, they have followed that up with below-par performances in losing at home to Norfolk and away at Herefordshire.

That has left them needing to beat Shropshire at Moddershall & Oulton on Sunday (11am) to keep their hopes alive.

Staffs also need Herefordshire to defeat Suffolk – and hope they boast a superior run-rate – in order to join Norfolk in progressing from Group Two into the last eight.

Staffordshire sat out last weekend’s round of fixtures. Skipper Kettleborough says that has enabled them to recharge before their key Shropshire encounter.

“In terms of Staffs stuff it has been a nice break. It has allowed us to step away from things for a bit of reflection,” said Kettleborough.

“It’s enabled us to think about where we’ve not hit our straps and where we need to put things right.

“It’s also allowed us to recover physically and mentally to make sure we’re right for Sunday. The schedule has been hectic with the rearrangement of fixtures. It’s been full on, so stepping away has been beneficial.

“It would be very easy, after the last two results, to feel down about things and believe that we’ve not made progress.

“But if we put in a performance this weekend like we did at Mildenhall, we have a great chance of qualifying. It’s not an unrealistic goal.”

‘Still hopeful’

Staffordshire failed to progress from the group stages last summer.

And the scenario is still looming large that the same situation could play out this season.

But Kettleborough isn’t about to throw in the towel on his side’s chances.

They will need to improve their batting, though, after being bowled out for 157 by Norfolk and 163 by Herefordshire.

“All four teams playing on Sunday still have a chance. I’m sure Shropshire will be feeling confident as well,” added Kettleborough.

Staffordshire skipper Ketts backing players to come good

“They’ve scored a fair few runs in their last couple of games, but we want to put ourselves in a position where we have a chance of going through.

“On the surface, why we haven’t backed up Suffolk is the first question you ask yourself.

“We’ve reflected on that and you look at the wicket at Mildenhall and it was different to the ones we played on at Smethwick (v Norfolk) and Eastnor (v Herefordshire).

“Those two were not 280 wickets, and if we had got 200 in both games we might possibly have won them.

“We’re not naive and know we need to add consistency to our game. We’ve underperformed when we’ve come across tricky wickets and not adapted.

“Some of the wickets we’ve played on at club and county level haven’t been easy. In the winter it’s easy to say this is how we want to play our cricket. But you have to adapt to the conditions.”

‘We can still shine’

Kettleborough says that even if Staffordshire don’t manage to progress this weekend, that shouldn’t be termed as a failure.

They will then turn their attention to red-ball matters with the Championship format commencing next month.

“It’s very clear that we need to go out there and play with confidence, play with freedom and show off who we are,” explained the Staffs captain.

“If we rewind 12 months, we won the T20 Cup, had a disappointing 50-over campaign and then played well in the Championship. We walked off at the end thinking that was a pretty successful season.

Head coach Carr concerned after another below-par batting display

“This year we’ve reached finals day of the T20s, still have a chance in the 50 overs and then have the red-ball format to come. So it can still be a really good season for us.

“I think the blueprint of what Berkshire have done over the past five or 10 years shows it’s possible to win multiple competitions.

“We want to be capable of that, but we’re not quite able to get that right just yet.”


Staffordshire do boast a relatively young side with the likes of Callum Hawkins, Rory Haydon, Sam Atkinson and Nils Priestley embarking on only their second full seasons at this level.

And Kettleborough accepts it can take time to make a prolonged impact.

“It can take a long time to adjust to NCCA cricket,” he said. “Some players come in and have a great first year. But it’s then how you follow it up in years two and three.

“There’s more expectations. The challenge is to go out there and perform week in, week out. That’s part of the demands of playing NCCA cricket. You have to let players find their feet, but they also have to show signs of progress.”

Main image: James Kettleborough says he’s optimistic Staffordshire can turn the tide in the NCCA Knockout Trophy. Picture: Pete Stonier