Liam Hurt ready to inflict pain in bid for Staffs Championship success

Staffordshire County Cricket Club's Liam Hurt

Liam Hurt is determined to help Staffordshire bridge the gap when they kick off their NCCA Championship campaign this weekend.

Staffs welcome Bedfordshire to Checkley on Sunday for their opening three-dayer of the season.

And fresh in Staffordshire minds will be how they performed last summer in the red-ball format, ending up in the runners-up spot in Division One East.

They were just four points adrift of divisional winners Buckinghamshire – who went on to win the overall crown – and were left to rue a couple of bad days at the office.

Staffs were below par in losing to Bucks in their 2023 meeting at West Bromwich Dartmouth, which ultimately proved to be a pivotal result.

So Hurt and his county colleagues have that extra drive to go one better, with the aim to start off in winning fashion against Beds.

“I think the red-ball format suits us. We know where we went wrong last season,” said Hurt, who plays his club cricket in the Greater Manchester League for Flixton.

“There were a couple of poor days against Bucks. That’s what it came down to at the end of the day.

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“We also had the weather affect us against Lincs at Checkley – but in the two days we did play we performed really well.

“Everyone knows their roles in the side and we’re a bit more relaxed in the Championship format.

“We really want to go for it this year and try to take that next step.”

‘Wicket haul’

This is Hurt’s second season with Staffordshire following his release by Lancashire.

He picked up 25 wickets in all format for Staffs last summer – and bowled the key last over as the county beat Cornwall at Tring Park in the T20 Cup final to lift that piece of silverware for the first time.

Staffordshire have reached finals day in that format once again. But as in Hurt’s first year, they have struggled in the Knockout Trophy.

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Three successive defeats saw them fail to qualify from their group for the second successive season.

“It’s been up and down for us so far, especially after last year. We really wanted to do better in the one-dayers,” added Hurt.

“But similar to last year it didn’t click for us and it’s a tough one to get your head around.

Staffordshire County Cricket Club's Liam Hurt
Liam Hurt is looking to add runs to his wicket haul for Staffordshire. Picture: Pete Stonier

“In the T20s we are always pretty aggressive. But the Knockout Trophy is a longer format and people can get caught in two minds.

“We were short of runs a few times and that doesn’t give you much to bowl at.

“Unless the wicket is doing a bit it’s tough to defend those scores. And the wickets we’ve played on have been pretty decent.

“The opposition just need a couple of good overs and they’re away. You can’t build scoreboard pressure.”

‘Up for the challenge’

Despite that disappointment, Hurt is loving life with Staffordshire.

And he’s eager to get his teeth into the red-ball games, which saw him pick up 15 wickets last summer.

“I feel like I’m bowling OK. I’ve not looked at the stats, but I felt I felt I bowled well in the T20s,” he explained. “The one-dayers have been tough, but I’m really looking forward to the Championship games.

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“It doesn’t really bother me bowling with a white or red ball, but I can swing the red one a bit more.

“It’s really enjoyable with Staffs. I spoke to Carri (Andy Carr, head coach) just after the end of last season and I was keen to go again.

“I’m not looking to get back into first-class cricket. This is a great bunch of lads to play with and a really good standard.”

‘Top performer’

Hurt is aiming to harvest a rich wicket haul in the opening red-ball game of the season.

But while he’s looking to start in style, one of his friends his out to finish their international career with a flourish.

England legend James Anderson – a team-mate of Hurt’s at Lancashire – brings the curtain down on his Test career next week in the opening Test against West Indies at Lord’s.

“He’s had an amazing career,” added Hurt.

“He’s not a big talker, but when you watch him bowl in the nets or in games you can pick up little bits.

“The odd thing he did say was worth listening to. He was a massive help if you asked him for advice.

“It certainly was great to have him around at Lancashire.”

Main image: Liam Hurt leads Staffordshire’s attack in the NCCA Championship. Picture: Pete Stonier