Michael Hill ready to pass on knowledge in Staffordshire’s new era

Staffordshire County Cricket Club batsman Michael Hill.

Michael Hill admits he’s relishing the prospect of being one of Staffordshire’s elder statesmen when they start their NCCA Championship campaign.

Staffordshire have named one of their youngest sides in recent times for the Division One East trip to Bury St Edmunds to take on Suffolk, which starts on Sunday.

There are seven three-day Staffs debutants in the team, with the majority of the side aged 25 or under, to underline the new era brought in by captain James Kettleborough and head coach Andy Carr.

That has left 32-year-old Hill at the other end of the age spectrum, but having made his county debut in the Championship-winning season of 2014, it’s a role he’s happy to take on.

“Our team is a lot different now and we have that bit of freshness and rawness which could be a good thing,” said Hill.

“It feels like when I first played in 2014 when we had that rawness and we went and attacked games.

“If we can do that again, hopefully we can come away with at least a divisional title and then have a go at the overall title this year.

‘Senior service’

“I’m the second oldest now, only Bretty is older than me. It’s a weird feeling. You look back and when I first started there was Gooders (Paul Goodwin), Willo (Greg Willott), Kaddy (Kadeer Ali), Byrney (Paul Byrne) and Wilsh (Peter Wilshaw).

“They were the senior payers and it has gone full circle and I’m now at that stage.

“It’s up to me to keep going and keep producing some strong performances. I want to help to bring a few of the younger lads along. There will be mistakes made, but hopefully not too many.

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“You have to identify those and help the younger lads progress and keep them going session by session.

“I like the responsibility. I’m quite reserved, but a deep thinker of the game, rather than being a chest beater. I like to deal in quality rather than quantity when it comes to talking.

“If the young lads need any advice they can always speak to me or message me. I’m here to help. It’s something I’m keen to pass on.

“When I first came in people helped me and offered advice. Now I want to pass on my knowledge to help Staffordshire be the best team we can be.”

‘Debutants aplenty’

Captain Kettleborough and left-arm spinner Tom Brett will make their Championship bows for Staffs. However, the pair boast a wealth of experience on the National Counties Cricket Association circuit.

Also included in the team are five players who have never played a red-ball game at this level. They are wicketkeeper Callum Hawkins, seamers Sam Atkinson, Rory Haydon and Liam Hurt, plus all-rounder Nils Priestley.

Staffordshire County Cricket Club batsman Michael Hill
Michael Hill helped Staffordshire to Twenty20 Cup success earlier this summer. Picture: Alfie Shenton

There is also a recall to the three-day ranks for Ashcombe Park slow left-armer Anis Raza. He last featured for Staffordshire in the long format in 2018.

Staffs have generally performed well since Hill has been involved in the Championship side.

After winning the title in his debut season, they then secured the Eastern Division crown in 2019 before losing to Berkshire by one wicket in the grand final.

‘Rollercoaster season’

This season has been an up-and-down affair. The county won the Twenty20 Cup before being knocked out of the 50-over competition in the group stages.

There is pride for Hill every time he represents Staffordshire. But he concedes that the start of this weekend’s red-ball programme is the one he has always had his eye on.

“I build the season up to the red-ball format, personally. We won the T20 which was really pleasing. That was probably unexpected especially after drawing Berkshire in the semi-finals. Nils (Priestley) was phenomenal,” added Hill.

“In the 50-over competition we got done by the rain to a degree, but the key thing for me is working up to the Championship cricket. That’s what you want to play.

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“That’s where you test every facet of your game. It’s the one you want to perform in because it’s the hardest to win.

“We’ve been close in the last couple of years, but have probably underachieved. A couple of bad sessions have cost us. Perhaps we needed a bit more firepower with the ball, particularly on flat pitches.

“We’ve relied on spinners drying things up and looking for the opposition to make a mistake.

“Now we have Liam (Hurt), Sam (Atkinson) and Rory (Haydon) coming in and that’s a positive, not to discredit the other bowlers we’ve had before.

“Hopefully we’ve got that ability seam-wise and we’ve got a quality spinner in Bretty. Anis (Raza) is also bowling really well for Ashcombe Park and he’ll go there with confidence.”

‘Form guy’

Hill will also travel to East Anglia this weekend feeling pretty chipper about his lot.

He has been among the runs for club side Meakins in North Staffs and South Cheshire League Division One. And he also ended last year’s NCCA action in a rich vein of form.

Hill became the first Staffordshire batsman to reel off three successive hundreds after scoring back-to-back tons against Lincolnshire before churning out 152 against this weekend’s opponents Suffolk at Checkley. That was his 10th Championship century.

That could even have been four in a row, but having made 50 in the second innings, he was caught and bowled by Darren Ironside.

And there are few better sights from a Staffordshire perspective than seeing left-handed Hill in full flow.

Staffordshire County Cricket Club batsman Michael Hill.
Michael Hill is now targeting three-day glory for Staffordshire. Picture: Alfie Shenton

“Getting three successive hundreds was just a golden summer. I felt good. I was scoring runs regularly for my club and didn’t have any niggly injuries,” explained Hill.

“It’s one of those times where everything clicked and I couldn’t have dreamed of making three successive hundreds.

“At the start of the summer you target getting two centuries over the four matches and a couple of 50s. So three in a row was certainly a nice surprise.

“My hard work paid off, but I should have made it four…”

‘Tough challenges’

Staffordshire’s three-day campaign also sees them visit Norfolk while also playing home matches against Buckinghamshire and Lincolnshire.

It’s a tough sequence of fixtures, but firstly Hill is keen to erase the memories of Staffs’ last trip to Suffolk.

In 2021, Staffs set title-chasing Suffolk 370 to win on the final day – and reduced the home side to 281-9 at Copdock.

However, Adam Mansfield and last man Ben Claydon, batting at number 11 because of injury, compiled an unbroken stand of 89 to see the East Anglians to the divisional title.

“Suffolk and Norfolk away are always tough,” said Hill. “Historically we’ve not done the best down there.

“That game in 2021 was a weird afternoon. The guy who was injured was their number three, so he wasn’t a proper tailender. Him and Adam

Mansfield stuck there and batted unbelievably well to get them over the line. We threw everything at them.”

‘Ushering in a new dawn’

However, Staffs travel east this weekend under a new regime.

Kettleborough signed for the county over the winter and was installed as captain, while Carr took over the role of head coach.

Their impact was immediate with Staffordshire winning the T20 Cup for the first time.

“We’ve had a core of players and a core management structure which was there for a long time and we had some successes with that. We came to the end of that cycle,” he said.

“Andy and Ketts have developed a clear line of communication and the training sessions have been up there with the best we’ve had.

“It’s been very thorough and people have been getting plenty out of th sessions. We saw that pay off in the T20s, so it was a shame we didn’t manage to go further in the 50s.

“It’s up to us now to continue and finish off the summer positively.

“Ketts has got first-class experience and Carri has helped out on the first-class scene. They’ve brought their knowledge together. It’s worked and it’s been enjoyable.”


The summer would be even more enjoyable if Staffs could first win their division and then go on to scoop the overall title.

Their new-look Championship side may take time to bed in, but Hill insists that the game plan remains much the same.

“We’d like to start off with a win, but more importantly is that we don’t lose the first game because we know we are strong at home,” added Hill.

“We’ve got to do the basics well and pick up our bonus points and then set the game up and have a crack at winning it.

“There’s no hiding place in three-day matches. The batters have to score big and bat long and the bowlers have to find a way to take 20 wickets.

“It would cap off a positive summer if we could win it.”

Michael Hill is being kindly sponsored by Wulfrun Specialised Fasteners for the 2023 season.

Picture: Michael Hill is determined to use his experience to benefit Staffordshire’s youngsters. Image: Alfie Shenton