James Kettleborough looking for one final push in NCCA Twenty20 Cup

Staffordshire County Cricket Club captain James Kettleborough.

James Kettleborough says his Staffordshire players can handle the big occasion as they look to defend their NCCA Twenty20 Cup title.

Staffs head to Chester Boughton Hall on Sunday, along with Berkshire, Cumbria and Oxfordshire, to battle it out for the silverware.

Staffordshire hop across the county border as defending champions – and face Berkshire in their semi-final at 1pm.

Cumbria and Oxfordshire meet in the day’s opening clash at 10am, before the two winners meet at 4.30pm.

Staffs’ semi-final tie is a re-run of last summer’s match at Tring Park, which resulted in a comprehensive success.

Staffordshire then went on to edge out Cornwall by four runs in the final.

Skipper Kettleborough says their 2023 triumph will stand them in good stead as they prepare for another action-packed day.

“It helps that we have experience of finals day,” said Kettleborough. “The memories of last year are still vivid and it’s a great day to be involved in.

“I’m really proud that we are there again.

Andy Carr proud of Staffordshire players’ efforts

“You want to be comfortable performing on the big stage – and that’s what we did last summer.

“There will be pressure on us because we’re defending champions. But there has been that pressure since we lifted the cup last summer.

“The other sides will be feeling the same. Berkshire will want to live up to their reputation, Oxfordshire have won it previously and will want to do so again, while Cumbria have proved to be a strong white-ball outfit.”

‘Hitting form’

Staffordshire were knocked out of the competition after the initial group games after seeing four of their six matches washed out.

However, they were handed a reprieve after Northumberland were removed after breaking player rules.

Kettleborough’s men certainly made the most of their second chance as they powered past Hertfordshire and Norfolk in Sunday’s Super 12 stage to progress to finals day.

Staffs piled up 181-5 against Herts before skittling their rivals for 83.

Staffordshire County Cricket Club captain James Kettleborough.
James Kettleborough was impressed with his side’s performances in the victories over Hertfordshire and Norfolk. Picture: Pete Stonier

They then bowled out Norfolk for 82 in the winner-takes-all clash before wrapping up a six-wicket triumph with nine overs to spare.

“The guys played really well. We spoke quite a bit about the areas we wanted to be better at and the areas we were good at. We nailed both,” added Kettleborough.

“The execution was satisfying and we’re in a good place and playing with confidence.

Super Staffordshire power their way to NCCA Twenty20 Cup finals day

“Ideally we would have wanted to bat first in the second game and put scoreboard pressure on them.

“But in the last two seasons we’ve had limited experience of run chases, so it was probably good we did that. We have to be prepared for every eventuality on Sunday and we know that we can play both ways.”

‘Familiar foes’

Kettleborough is relishing another match-up with Berkshire in Sunday’s semi-final.

Nils Priestley smashed 147 not out to set up last year’s win – but the Staffs captain says that Berkshire will be out for revenge.

However, he says Staffordshire demonstrated last weekend that they are in no mood to relinquish their crown.

“After the group stages we only played two out of six matches and for a short period of time we were out of the competition,” said Kettleborough.

“We got that extra life and we had a point to prove. Last Sunday we played like we were champions. I came away feeling really proud of the players.

“It’s probably easier for Berkshire to get up for the game because of what happened last year. They will want to right a few wrongs. We know we can beat them and we’re capable of doing it. But in T20 cricket anything can happen.

“You look at all four sides and any one of them can walk away with the title. But if we perform like we did last Sunday, we won’t be far away.”

Main image: James Kettleborough leads Staffordshire out at NCCA Twenty20 Cup finals day this weekend. Picture: Pete Stonier

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