James Kettleborough keen to look forward after disappointing Trophy campaign

Staffordshire County Cricket Club's James Kettleborough.

James Kettleborough insists it’s time to park Staffordshire’s Trophy problems as they look ahead to the next stage of the NCCA season.

Staffordshire brought the curtain down on a disappointing 50-over campaign with a six-wicket defeat by Shropshire at Moddershall & Oulton on Sunday.

That was a third straight loss – following an opening-round win at Suffolk – and saw them finish bottom of Group Two.

It’s the second successive season Staffordshire have failed to progress from the group stage.

Staffordshire now turn their attention to red-ball matters, with the Championship Division One East campaign starting next month.

Skipper Kettleborough says that he’s not brushing the county’s Trophy woes under the carpet, but believes a deep dive into their issues is better served in the winter.

“There’s no benefit to us sitting down now and seeing where we went wrong,” said Kettleborough.

“Bar the Showcase Game, we don’t have anymore 50-over cricket left to play this summer.

“We need to park it for now and have a look at it during the winter training sessions.

“There’s lots of things we could have done better and areas we can improve on, but we have to take what positives there were into the three-dayers.

“I said to the lads at the end of the game that it felt like a good moment to step back and see where we are as a group.

“We have to have honest conversations and move forward into the red-ball games.”

‘Hawkins is the hero’

Defeats by Norfolk and Herefordshire left Staffs needing to beat Shropshire to stand any chance of reaching the last eight.

However, they were limited to 227-9, before Shropshire completed a six-wicket win.

Staffordshire’s batting failed to fire as a unit once more, although wicketkeeper Callum Hawkins compiled 99.

Callum Hawkins shines, but Staffordshire suffer Trophy exit

“It was a disappointing day because there was still an opportunity for us to progress,” added Kettleborough.

“Given the batting struggles we have had in the last few games, it was great to see Callum put his hand up and get a score.

“He will be as disappointed as anyone he didn’t reach his first county hundred. He will probably remember the one run he didn’t get rather than the 99 he did.

“Hopefully he can kick on from here.”

‘Key period’

Staffs’ hopes of putting a bigger score on the board were hit when senior players Zen Malik, Kettleborough and Michael Hill fell in the space of 12 balls.

Matt Morris made 35 to keep Hawkins company, but Staffordshire were always looking on the light side in terms of the target they set.

“You want your senior players to step up and get a score. But it’s not been the case in the last few games,” explained Kettleborough.

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“That’s why it was pleasing to see Callum take responsibility and seize his chance.

“Zen got a good ball, as did I first up. Hilly went searching for one, but if he’d have hit it for four, he’d have been feeling good about himself.

“As it was he nicked it, but I don’t think any of us did anything wrong.”

‘No early joy’

Staffs once again failed to make a breakthrough in the powerplay and Shropshire ticked along serenely to knock off the runs.

Liam Hurt claimed a late double, but the game had already gone by that point.

“We have talked a lot about Suffolk where we put a score on the board. Then Rory (Haydon) got an early wicket,” said the captain.

“Liam then got another and that put the pressure on them which makes a big difference.

“I thought Liam bowled really well with the new ball, but didn’t get rewards. He deserved his two wickets at the end.

“Anis (Raza) also performed well, but we didn’t have enough runs to put them under pressure.”

Staffs start their Championship season on Sunday, July 7 when they entertain Bedfordshire at Checkley.

Main image: Staffordshire captain James Kettleborough is keen to focus his energy on the upcoming Championship campaign. Picture: Pete Stonier