Matt Morris happy to repay Staffordshire faith

Staffordshire County Cricket Club's Matt Morris.

Sun, sand, sangria and scoring runs have been on Matt Morris’ mind.

The 25-year-old has taken a short break in Spain this week ahead of Staffordshire’s NCCA Knockout Trophy game against Shropshire at Moddershall & Oulton tomorrow.

As a batsman, it’s little wonder that Morris has jetted off in search of warmer climes after a distinctly damp start to the cricket season.

Morris, who plays his club cricket for Westhoughton in the Greater Manchester League, will be hoping that the Costa del Sol sunshine has followed him home.

That may well be the case given the upturn in weather on these shores – and Morris hopes that will make life a little bit easier out in the middle.

“The season doesn’t feel like it’s got going yet with how poor the weather has been and the wickets that have been produced,” said the left-hander.

“They are not great because of conditions and are not batter friendly.

“Westhoughton is supposed to be one of the best grounds in Lancashire, but it’s just so soft on top. It’s producing green seamers which are nipping about and makes it tough for batters at the moment.

“I’m struggling to find my rhythm. I’m trying to get a net on grass in the week to practice my skills, but then it hoses down.

“Then on a Saturday we get delayed starts and shortened games. It’s tough, but it’s not the first time this will have happened in our careers.”

‘Moment in the middle’

The inclement weather has also hampered Morris’ attempts to secure significant time at the crease for Staffordshire.

He wasn’t required to bat in the opening 50-over Group Two victory over Suffolk at Mildenhall.

Morris did have a chance in the loss to Norfolk at Smethwick, but it was the Herefordshire fixture where he had a prolonged opportunity.

He compiled 51 and, although Staffs were beaten, he found the experience valuable.

“I’ve not had too much of a chance with the bat yet,” added Morris. “I found it good to spend some time in the middle at Herefordshire.

Staffordshire County Cricket Club's Matt Morris.
Matt Morris’ spin bowling has come to the fore for Staffordshire this summer. Picture: Pete Stonier

“I spoke to Ketts (James Kettleborough, captain) and Carri (Andy Carr, head coach) before the game about my role in the side.

“There was speculation over whether I was going to play or not. I had the chance to put my point across to them about why I thought I should be playing.

“And it was good to repay that faith and prove that I could do it. I don’t want to be all talk, so it was pleasing to back that up and score some runs.

“I would like to be able to express myself a bit more, but the fortunate thing is that I can soak up the pressure and get a score for the team.”

‘Spin to win’

Luckily for Morris, he has another string to his bow with his off-spin.

And his bowling has been utilised by skipper Kettleborough this season, which has seen him pick up six wickets so far.

“This year is the best I’ve bowled so far for Staffs,” explained Morris. “I’ve not had many opportunities with the bat, but have done with the ball.

“When I came on to the scene many moons ago – five years – I was an all-rounder, a batter who could bowl.

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“In the T20 game against Northumberland, it came as a surprise to bowl because I didn’t expect it.

“Once I settled in I was comfortable in that containing role. I feel I can hold my own. It’s nice to be able to show your skills off at this level.

The more I am bowling, the more confident I will be. It’s good to have that opportunity and I hope to take it.”

‘Big puzzle’

Morris’ batting and bowling could well be required tomorrow as Staffs look to make a late dash to qualify for the Knockout Trophy quarter-finals.

They need to beat Shropshire and also hope that Herefordshire defeat Suffolk in their clash at Colwall. Run-rate will then come into play in the race to join Norfolk in the last eight.

Staffordshire failed to qualify from their group last summer – and the same fate could occur this time.

And Morris is at a loss to explain why Staffs have never consistently cracked the 50-over format.

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“I can never put my finger on why we’ve struggled in 50-over cricket,” admitted Morris. “I’ve been blessed to play with some amazing cricketers for Staffs. And I can’t work out why we’ve not done it as a team.

“We had the year where we lost a bowl out at Cumbria and that was the year it had clicked.

“It’s puzzling why we’ve not dominated in this format given the side we have.

“If we win our game and Suffolk lose, we could go through and that would put us in a good place.

‘Time to adapt’

“If you look back at Norfolk, in my view we had the poorer of the conditions. But you accept it and we should be batting better and scoring more runs.

“You have to take the opportunity and deal with the cards you’ve been dealt. It didn’t pan out.

“Then against Herefordshire it was doing a bit early on, but was it a 150/160 wicket? No.

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“That can all change very quickly on Sunday and we could find ourselves in the quarter-finals.

“But if we don’t go through, we want to win our game and take some momentum into the three-dayers.

“Sunday is not going to make or break our season, but if we play to the best of our ability we will have the chance to put in a good performance and hopefully progress.”

‘One mission’

There has been understandable disappointment about Staffordshire’s last two 50-over performances.

Morris says the players themselves are frustrated, but are determined to all play their part to return to winning ways.

“That’s the good thing about the side is that from one to 11 there’s no person who is just there to make up the numbers – that’s what NCCA cricket is about.

“You might have someone batting at eight or nine who bats three or four for their club and it’s really competitive cricket.

“In my opinion it’s a better standard than county second team cricket.

“In county seconds you can have players playing for themselves, trying to get a contract, rather than being concerned about the result.

“But at Staffs I can guarantee that the reason we all play is to win games for the county.”

Main image: Matt Morris is looking to make a Staffordshire impact with both bat and ball. Picture: Pete Stonier