Nils Priestley so close to history as Staffordshire earn NCCA Twenty20 Cup reward

Nils Priestley blasted 97 as Staffordshire won the second game against Northumberland in the NCCA Twenty20 Cup.

Nils Priestley produced arguably the most memorable performance from a Staffordshire batsman in Twenty20 cricket to help the county to earn some reward from their long trip to Northumberland.

Staffs had been defeated in the opening match at South Northumberland yesterday as they finally started their National Counties Cricket Association Group One season.

Staffordshire had seen last weekend’s matches against Cumbria at Checkley abandoned without a ball being bowled.

So it wasn’t an ideal start to see hosts Northumberland cruise to a seven-wicket success, overhauling Staffs’ 158-3, in the first competitive fixture under new captain James Kettleborough and head coach Andy Carr.

‘Bouncing back’

However, Staffordshire – not firm friends with T20 over the years it has to be said – rallied in the afternoon. But they had to play a waiting game.

The inclement weather hit, before umpires Ian Warne and Robert Eagleton decided a 12-over per side match could take place.

And it proved to be one of the highest entertainment, with Staffs all-rounder Priestley showcasing his ability with a devastating innings.

The left-hander had insisted before the T20 competition started that he’d love to be able to open the batting to make a statement.

He did just that… and then some. He came close to becoming the first Staffordshire batsman to score a Twenty20 century as he helped the county to 161-3.

Nils Priestley was named Staffordshire's player of the day.
Nils Priestley was named Staffordshire’s player of the day.

Priestley smashed 97 off a mere 39 balls, slamming 10 fours and half-a-dozen maximums along the way. A ton was in reach, but he holed out to Matthew Oswell to bring an end to his sparkling innings.

Staffordshire, with little time to hang about, were 122-1 from 8.5 overs when Priestley departed back to the pavilion.

It’s not often Peter Wilshaw is outscored to that degree, but he was happy to let Priestley take centre stage as he pummelled the Northumberland attack.

Wilshaw eventually fell for 35, while Liam Hurt made a breezy 13 to push Staffordshire towards a score which would take some chasing.

‘Tough task’

But credit to Northumberland, they approached the challenge with gusto. And at one stage it looked like they might well be powering themselves into the driving seat.

Priestley had Alasdair Appleby stumped by Spencer Byatt. But Luke Doneathy blazed three sixes and a couple of fours in his 31 to keep the hosts up with the rate.

However, the pressure of keeping up that pace soon told. And Staffs nibbled away taking wickets to scupper any momentum Northumberland were able to build up.

Still, at 73-2 at the halfway point, the points were up for grabs. However, Sam Atkinson took the wicket of John Oswell and Priestley returned to trap Mohsin Mukhtar lbw.

If there was any doubt that Staffordshire would be game two winners, those were allayed in the ninth over.

Dan Richardson struck twice in four balls to dismiss Stuart Poynter for 26 and George Drissell for two to leave the hosts 90-6.

From that point on, Staffordshire closed out the game clinically. Northumberland drew stumps on 105-7, Jack Redman striking in the final over.

‘Disappointing start’

Staffordshire were comfortably beaten in the first game of the day.

After being invited to bat, they suffered an early blow when Wilshaw was dismissed for a duck.

Priestley made 14 before falling, which left Staffs 28-2 – and in need of a rebuilding effort.

Captain Kettleborough was the man who orchestrated matters, firstly in the company of left-hander Michael Hill.

James Kettleborough shone with the bat in Staffordshire's first game.
James Kettleborough shone with the bat in Staffordshire’s first game.

Hill exited the arena for 18, but Kettleborough still played relatively watchfully before putting his foot down.

There were some aesthetically-pleasing shots from the county leader and also Matthew Morris.

Kettleborough walked off unbeaten on 81, a 57-ball innings which featured four fours and two sixes.

Morris hit two fours and one six in his 33 not out, which took him just 24 deliveries.

‘Quick out of the blocks’

However, Staffordshire couldn’t exert any real pressure on the Northumberland line-up in their run chase.

Openers Appleby and John Oswell blasted a stand of 69 before Priestley accounted for the latter for 34.

Northumberland continued on their merry way, with Doneathy easing himself to 27 before being caught by Kettleborough off seamer Hurt.

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Appleby fell lbw to Wilshaw for 45, but by that stage Northumberland were 117-3 and had broken the back of their target.

It was then left to Stuart Poynter (30no) and Bobby Green (18no) to steer the home side past the post with ease to take the first points of the day.

‘Something to build on’

Staffordshire will have been disappointed with their performance in the morning, but suitably enthused by the breathless action in the afternoon.

Finding the right recipe to claim two wins in a day will be on Carr and Kettleborough’s minds. But the display in the second game gives them something to work with moving forward.

Staffordshire wrap up their group campaign next weekend. They host Shropshire at Leek on Sunday before travelling to Nantwich to play Cheshire on Monday.

Main image: Nils Priestley scored 97 in Staffordshire’s victory over Northumberland in game two.