Match Report – Staffordshire v Cumberland


Staffs remain top of the Eastern Division, after hanging on for a draw in their game against Cumberland at Checkley. However they are beginning to come under pressure from Norfolk, who defeated Lincolnshire inside two days, to move to within 11 points of Staffs and they have a game in hand against bottom of the table Northumberland to be played next week.

The two heroes for Staffs were Spencer Byatt and Paul Byrne who came together with the league leaders on 179.8 and struggling to avoid a heavy defeat. Playing just his fourth championship match, Little Stoke wicket keeper Byatt repelled all that the Cumberland attack threw at him as he faced 131balls to end the game on 32 not out. He found an able partner in the experienced Walsall spinner Paul Byrne, who having earlier reached the memorable target of 200 championship wickets for Staffordshire, once again showed his mettle with the bat in making an unbeaten 31 from 51 deliveries as the pair batted throughout the final 17 overs to see Staffs end on 229-8 and earn a precious 4 points for the draw to add to the 5 bonus points already gained, and who knows how vital they may become at the end of the season.

Set a tough target of 344 to win in 76 overs, Staffs never looked likely to achieve as wickets fell at regular intervals. Big hitters Michael Hill 31, Tim Maxfield 41, and Peter Wilshaw 32 all perished in the run chase as did debutant Ethan Brookes having made 20. When the last of the recognized batsmen, Wilshaw, departed with the score on 160.6 the writing looked on the wall for Staffs but first Dan Richardson hung around for 37 balls and Matt Goodwin for 20 to assist Byatt’s resistance before the heroics at the end of the innings.

​Earlier in the day Cumberland took their overnight score of 149-4 to 257-8 before the declaration came. Gary Pratt departed early thanks to an excellent catch on the fine leg boundary by Mitchell Spencer to give Warwickshire Academy player Ethan Brookes his first ever Minor Counties wicket. His overnight partner, Matthew Sempill was given a life on 41, and went on to finish 86 not out. The declaration came with the dismissal of Toby Bulcock by Paul Byrne which immediately saw him surrounded by his team mates to celebrate his landmark 200th championship wicket. Byrne finished with 4-64, to add to his 5-66 in Cumberland’s first innings.

A topsy-turvy second day had ended with Cumberland in a strong position as the led by 235 with six second innings remaining and looking to set Staffs a daunting victory target on the final day.

The early part of the day saw the Staffs overnight pairing of Matthew Morris and debutant Ethan Brookes build on the overnight score of 40-1 and move onto 92 before Brookes shouldered arms to a delivery from spinner Toby Bulcock having made 26. This was the start of a procession of wickets which saw Staffs slump to 127-7 as their much vaunted middle order batsmen failed to deliver. Michael Hill tamely returned a catch to Bulcock off his own bowling before the introduction of seamer Toby Mowat into the attack brought about instant success as, in his first over he trapped Morris lbw for 40 and then saw Peter Wilshaw drag a delivery into his own stumps. Spencer Byatt and Dan Richardson departed cheaply leaving Staffs still needing a further 25 runs to avoid the possibility of following on.

Whist all this was going on Tim Maxfield remained strong and in partnership with Matt Goodwin (20) took Staffs past the follow on target before Goodwin went with the score on 166. Paul Byrne helped Maxfield earn Staffs a batting point before Byrne was dismissed for 18 by left arm pace-man Adam Sydall who also dismissed last man Mitchell Spencer, to see Staffs bowled out for a disappointing 215 in 68.2 overs, with Maxfield left high and dry having made an excellent 63 not out off just 65 balls. Sydall claimed 3-36 and Bulcock 4-79 to help Cumberland gain a first innings lead of 86.

Staffs fought back in the early stages of the Cumberland second innings and at 61-4 the game was nicely poised, but a fifth wicket partnership of 83 saw the visitors extend their advantage to 23 at the close of play, with Gary Pratt 50 not out and Matthew Sempill providing good support with an unbeaten 35.

Staffs made an early breakthrough on the opening morning with two quick wickets to reduce the visitors, who had chosen to bat first, to 22-2. However that was to be the last success before lunch as Cumberland reached 100-2. As in the first session Staffs claimed two early wickets on the resumption, removing opener Toby Mowat without addition to his lunch score of 50 and then Sam Dutton for 44.

Again the visiting batsmen dug in and at the tea interval they stood on 225-4 and looking capable of setting Staffs a daunting first innings total. But in the final session a marathon spell from paceman Mitchell Spencer, in partnership with left arm spinner Paul Byrne, saw Staffs claim the last six Cumberland wickets for the addition of just 76 runs to see them dismissed for 301 off the final ball of their permitted 90 overs and enable Staffs to gain the valuable four maximum batting points.

Alex Grainger (64) and Matthew Sempill with 73 added 128 for the fifth wicket but their dismissals brought about a mini collapse. Nantwich’s Mitchell Spencer finished with 3 for 73 from his 24 over spell while Byrne bowled one more over to finish with 5 for 66. Matt Goodwin, playing his first championship game of the season, and Tim Maxfield were the other successful Staffs bowlers.

By the close of play on day one Staffs had lost skipper Kadeer Ali lbw for 20 to a delivery from Adam Sydall that shot along the ground, and reached 40-1 from 15 overs.

Cumberland 1st innings 301 all out & 2nd innings 257-8 declared
Staffordshire 1st innings 215 all out & 2nd innings 229-8
Staffordshire 9 points. Cumberland 11 points.

This coming Sunday the two counties meet again in the semi-final of the 50 over a side Unicorns Trophy to be played at Carlisle Cricket Club 11am start.