James Kettleborough up for the fight in NCCA Twenty20 Cup defence

Staffordshire County Cricket Club captain James Kettleborough

Staffordshire captain James Kettleborough believes his side can navigate their way through the unpredictable nature of Twenty20 cricket to continue their cup defence.

Staffs make the trip to Norwich’s Manor Park on Sunday to play Norfolk and Hertfordshire in the Super 12s stage of the National Counties Cricket Association competition.

Kettleborough’s men are the defending champions. They beat Cornwall in last year’s final to lift the silverware for the first time in their history.

The 12 teams have been split into four venues and the winners at each ground will progress to finals day at Chester Boughton Hall next Sunday.

‘Lucky break’

Staffordshire might consider themselves somewhat fortune to be featuring this weekend.

They didn’t qualify from their group, but Northumberland’s removal from the competition for breaking player rules earned a reprieve.

“It’s a strange feeling. There’s that feeling of being lucky to be part of the Super 12s after what happened,” said Kettleborough.

“But thinking about it, I don’t think we are the 12th strongest team left in the format.

“If we play to our best and everything clicks we are capable of qualifying for finals day and competing for the trophy.

‘Staffordshire produced the perfect Trophy performance’

“In Twenty20 cricket anything can happen. You could give the title to any of the 12 teams.

“We might be fortunate to be in the Super 12s, but we won’t give up the trophy without a fight.”

Staffs saw their group-stage double headers against Cheshire and Cumbria washed out.

The only action they have seen in the T20 format was a win and defeat against Northumberland.

‘Road trip’

Staffs’ re-entry to the cup now sees them make the long trek to East Anglia. Norfolk and Hertfordshire meet in the day’s opening game at 10am. Staffs play the losers at 1pm and then the winners of match one at 4.30pm.

“We’ve only played two games of T20 cricket this season because of the weather,” added Kettleborough, pictured. “We did some good stuff against Northumberland and there were also elements we were disappointed with.

“It’s important that we nail the areas we are good at and improve on what we fell short in. The experience of us winning the competition will help to a degree.

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“We know the structure, but it’s still playing two games in a day, so it’s very much a level playing field.

“We’re on for the last game of the day and that will be a winner-takes-all contest, which adds to the excitement of the day.

“It’s not ideal to be travelling as far as we are, but being on second and third means we can have a leisurely Sunday morning and relax before we tackle our prep.”

‘Ground knowledge’

Kettleborough also believes that venturing to Manor Park is handy as his side know the ground.

Staffs have regularly played Norfolk at the ground, next door to Norwich Airport.

“I think it does help that we are familiar with Manor Park,” added Kettleborough.

“We know what the wicket is like, although there have been some changes over the years.

“But that element of familiarity about the ground should make the players feel more comfortable.”

Staffordshire are planning to take a 13-man squad down to Norfolk for Sunday’s contests.

The other Super 12s groups see Cumbria, Lincolnshire and Herefordshire meet at Furness; Berkshire, Shropshire and Cornwall play at Slough; and Oxfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Dorset play each other at Great & Little Tew.

Main image: James Kettleborough takes his Staffordshire side to East Anglia for the NCCA Twenty20 Cup Super 12s this weekend. Picture: Pete Stonier