NCCA Championship day three report: No fairytale finish for Byrne as Staffs’ title hopes end

Paul Byrne leads Staffordshire off the field at the end of the Suffolk clash.

Staffordshire’s hopes of staying in the NCCA Division One title hunt were ended after they lost to Suffolk.

Staffs needed to win their final match of the Championship season at Checkley to stand any chance of topping the pile at the end of the campaign.

They would have then needed results to go in their favour next weekend, when the four other sides complete their fixtures, but that is now not a consideration following events at Four Trees today.

Suffolk, themselves in need of a victory to bolster their chances of survival, were set 281 to win by Staffordshire – and pretty much cruised over the line.

Darren Ironside, Michael Godwin and Ben Parker all compiled half-centuries as Suffolk secured a five-wicket win with more than five overs of the last hour remaining.

It was a pretty comfortable chase for Suffolk as Staffordshire failed to build any sustained pressure on the East Anglians in the afternoon session.

There was an individual highlight for Staffs, though, as spinner Paul Byrne, who has announced his retirement, picked up his 250th county wicket.

However, there was to be no fitting finale for the Meakins slow left-armer, which would have seen him stride out for next month’s Championship final at West Bromwich Dartmouth, as Suffolk romped to victory.

That has left Lincolnshire in pole position to win the title, although Bedfordshire, remarkable two-day winners at Norfolk, still have an outside chance to progressing from being relegation haunted to table toppers. The final round of fixtures sees Norfolk host Lincolnshire and Suffolk play Bedfordshire.

It was a disappointing conclusion to the three-day season for Staffordshire, who didn’t possess the firepower in their attack to trouble Suffolk on the final day.

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Pictured: Paul Byrne leads Staffordshire off the field on his final appearance for the county.