James Kettleborough proud of Staffordshire’s efforts in victory mission

Staffordshire County Cricket Club captain James Kettleborough

James Kettleborough admits he was a proud captain after watching his Staffordshire side push hard for victory over Lincolnshire.

The second day of the NCCA Division One East clash was washed out – leaving Staffs with a seemingly uphill task to achieve the win they craved.

They started the final day on 54-0 in reply to Lincolnshire’s 281 all out and made their way to 325-7 declared.

Staffs needed a remarkable bowling performance to skittle Lincs second time around and had reduced the Imp County to 117-8 before a draw was agreed.

Liam Hurt grabbed four of the wickets to fall to keep Staffordshire dreaming of a repeat two-day win.

They had won in just a couple of days’ play the week before at Norfolk.

“There was a mixture of frustration and pride,” said skipper Kettleborough.

“But any frustration was massively over-ridden by the pride I have in the group for the determination and character they showed. It was disappointing that we couldn’t get over the line, but even if we had it would have been touch and go in terms of time.

“We just gave everything we had. We spoke beforehand about trying to replicate what we did at Norfolk and we came pretty close.”

‘Stubborn resistance’

Half-centuries from Kettleborough, Zen Malik and Michael Hill had powered Staffs to maximum batting points early in the afternoon session. They then reduced Lincs to 88-8 at one point, but Joe Pocklington’s 115-ball 34 not out helped to stave off defeat for Lincs.

“I had a little voice in my head saying that it could happen (a Staffs win),” admitted Kettleborough.

“But Pocklington showed plenty of fight. If we had removed him, I’d have had more belief we could have done it.

“It was never clear before the day’s play about how we should go about things.

‘Peter Wilshaw delivered at the most crucial times in Staffordshire’s history’

“We discussed our approach and there were two or three ways we could have gone about it. It was felt that going past Lincs and then taking early wickets – which we did – was the best way to go.

“I’ve got no regrets, we tried everything and I would 100 per cent go the same way again. I couldn’t have asked any more of the lads. In situations like that you want your senior players to stick their hands up and Hurty (Liam Hurt) certainly did.

“At one point I asked him if he was tired, but he either didn’t hear me or ignored me! So I just left him to get on and bowl.”

‘Hoping for a miracle’

The draw pushed Staffordshire to the top of the table, although they have now finished their league programme.

Second-placed Bucks now only need a draw from this weekend’s trip to play Suffolk at Copdock to win the division.

They are heavy favourites to complete that mission – but Kettleborough isn’t waving the white flag just yet.

“Cricket is a funny game and anything can happen,” explained Kettleborough.

“But it’s fair to say that I’m not holding my breath.”

‘Farewell to a legend’

Tuesday’s final day of play was also tinged with emotion as Peter Wilshaw took to the field for the last time as a Staffordshire player.

The 36-year-old, who made his debut in 2004, was making his 98th Championship appearance for Staffs.

He received a guard of honour as he departed the pitch.

“It was a great send-off for Pete,” said Kettleborough. “A lot has been said about his playing career and will continue to be said. He’s had an unbelievable career and the longevity is testament to his skill.

“I first played against him 12 years ago and this year I’ve been lucky enough to be his a team-mate.

“He is a top guy and I feel privileged to have done that and share special memories with him like our T20 Cup finals day win.”

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

Main image: Staffordshire captain James Kettleborough was proud of his side’s efforts against Lincs. Picture: Alfie Shenton