James Kettleborough out to make more memories after special week

Staffordshire County Cricket Club captain James Kettleborough.

Staffordshire captain James Kettleborough has enjoyed an unforgettable week – both on and off the pitch.

A certain beer company boasts about providing perfect weeks… and there’s little doubt that Kettleborough has just had first-hand experience of one.

Last Friday afternoon, his wife Jenny gave birth to daughter Grace, before the new dad then went and scored his first Knockout Trophy century for Staffordshire in their victory at Suffolk.

Kettleborough had spent the majority of his time from midweek in hospital awaiting the arrival of the couple’s baby.

And then it was a quick Sunday morning dash to Mildenhall as Kettleborough switched to cricket mode after making a late decision to play in the fixture.

“It’s been a hectic time and has taken a bit of time to digest,” said the Staffs skipper.

“It was a pretty full-on five days, but now Grace is here, it’s incredible.

“Everything was so up in the air as to whether I’d be able to play at Suffolk.

“Once Grace was born, on Friday evening it was a quick conversation with Jenny to make sure it was ok if I played.

“The proviso was that I travelled on the day, rather then overnight at the team hotel. Some people did a double take when I told them I was playing so soon after the birth.

“There were a lot of questions about whether it was the right decision.”

‘Hitting the road’

Kettleborough had pulled out of his club commitments with Checkley on the Saturday. But he mulled over whether to make the long trip to East Anglia.

He says the blessing of wife Jenny, plus his determination to lead from the front, helped to make up his mind.

“I was torn and I wasn’t,” he added. “I appreciate I want to be here as much as I can with Jenny and Grace. But at the moment my weekdays are pretty clear.

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“There’s plenty of opportunities to make amends after playing a game of cricket.

“I wanted to fulfil my duties playing for Staffordshire and being the captain.

“There are priorities, but I wanted to help us to get off to a good start in the competition.

“The comfort coming back from the game was that I had plenty of chances to spend good quality time with Grace and Jenny, which has been amazing.”

Staffordshire County Cricket Club captain James Kettleborough.
James Kettleborough scored a century for Staffordshire in their NCCA Knockout Trophy win against Suffolk. Picture: Pete Stonier

Kettleborough’s decision to play at Suffolk certainly paid off.

In fact, it might have been written in the stars that he scored a hundred less than two days after welcoming his daughter into the world.

Kettleborough struck four fours in his 100 as Staffordshire posted 286-3 from their 50 overs.

A disciplined bowling performance then saw them dismiss Suffolk for 170, in which Nils Priestley claimed 6-37.

In the process he became the first Staffordshire player to take six wickets in a Knockout Trophy match.

‘Key contribution’

For Kettleborough, it was a proud moment to register his first three-figure score in white-ball cricket for the county.

The 31-year-old always pays tribute to his late dad John when he scores a century – and he also had the newest member of the family to toast following Sunday’s exploits.

“Once I’d made the decision to play, there was a little voice in my head saying ‘if you play really well and make a match-winning contribution, how good would that be?’ explained Kettleborough.

“For that to come to fruition was hugely satisfying and added to a memorable few days.”

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Daughter Grace wasn’t at Mildenhall to see dad’s hundred, but watched with mum Jenny on a live stream at home.

It has been reported that Grace slept through his innings – and Kettleborough jokes he might have been to blame for that particular scenario.

“It probably was me that sent her to sleep watching that!” said Kettleborough. “There can’t be too many one-day hundreds which only contain four fours. And I got two of them in my last four balls.

“I am sure when she’s old enough to understand I’ll be able to talk her through the innings, although she’ll probably fall asleep again!”

‘Team mentality’

There was understandably personal pride about his achievements, but Kettleborough is not one to be the centre of attention.

His focus was on Staffordshire making a winning start to their 50-over campaign after last summer’s disappointment.

Staffs failed to qualify from their group in 2023 and plenty of work has gone into this particular format ahead of this season.

“We spoke about the blueprint about how we want to play our cricket,” revealed Kettleborough.

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“We did a lot of talking, so it was important to go out there and put it into action. It would have been frustrating to make the same mistakes we did last season.

“But we were on the ball in all disciplines. We are not going to get things right every time because we’re only human.

“It was so satisfying to see it come together and the performance made me proud as both a Staffordshire player and captain.”

‘T20 Cup mission’

Kettleborough and his Staffordshire players now turn their attention back to the Twenty20 format this weekend.

It’s another trip to East Anglia, this time to Norwich’s Manor Park, to play Norfolk and Hertfordshire in the Super 12s stage.

This is a new-look format for the National Counties Cricket Association competition.

Last year the 20 teams were divided into five groups of four with the table-toppers all advancing to finals day.

This summer, there were initially five groups of four. The winners and runners-up from each group, plus the two best third-placed finishers, advanced to be the freshly-introduced Super 12s stage.

Staffordshire, who are the defending champions, looked like they had been knocked out after four of their six group matches fell victim to the weather.

Staffordshire County Cricket Club all-rounder Nils Priestley
Nils Priestley took six wickets in Staffordshire’s win at Suffolk. Picture: Pete Stonier

However, Northumberland were removed from the competition after breaching player regulations in their games against Cheshire.

Sunday’s schedule sees hosts Norfolk play Hertfordshire in the opening game at 10am.

Staffs then play the losers of that contest at 1pm and the winners of match one at 4.30pm.

“It’s really nice to have that stepping stone between the groups and finals day,” said Kettleborough. “There are still going to be three games in a day. We want to get to the business end of the competition.

“All the teams that have qualified just have another hurdle to overcome.”

‘Chance of history’

Kettleborough’s daughter Grace won’t be in attendance at Manor Park this weekend.

Instead, she will be staying with mum Jenny and her sister, England international Kate Cross, no doubt watching on the live stream.

Kettleborough has the chance to create of piece of Staffs history this weekend to continue his dream time.

He could become the first Staffordshire player to score a hundred in all three formats.

If he does manage to achieve that, hopefully Grace will be wide awake to witness it.

Main image: Staffordshire captain James Kettleborough and his wife Jenny welcomed daughter Grace into the world last week. Picture: Pete Stonier