Rory Haydon relishing his big role in Staffordshire’s attack

Staffordshire County Cricket Club's Rory Haydon

It is hugely exciting, but also a touch depressing, watching Rory Haydon and Sam Atkinson bowl for Staffordshire.

The excitement comes from seeing two highly-talented seamers executing their skills on the NCCA stage.

The depressing part is the fact that their combined age of 37 is significantly lower than your own individual one.

But handing young talent the chance to represent the county is a key part of the philosophy of new head coach Andy Carr and captain James Kettleborough.

And their trust in 19-year-old Haydon and Atkinson, aged 18, has so far been rewarded.

Atkinson helped Staffordshire win the NCCA Twenty20 Cup and has been a regular presence throughout the campaign.

‘Heading in the right direction’

Haydon has appeared in the Knockout Trophy and figured in the opening Championship fixture of the season at Suffolk.

That represented a big tick in the box for Haydon, who was handed his debut in a one-dayer at Shropshire in 2021.

However, a mixture of injuries and unavailability subsequently hampered his chances of a lengthy run in the side – until this summer.

“I’ve really enjoyed being part of it,” said Haydon. “Over the last couple of years I’ve had a go, but not a consistent run like this time.

“It’s fantastic to be around the group and represent Staffordshire and hopefully I can keep on doing it.

Andy Carr burns the midnight oil to put Staffs back on track

“My body feels good at the moment. I had a slight niggle at Suffolk, although I’m fit and raring to go now.

“In the past couple of years I’ve had serious injuries, but now I’m playing consistently.

“I feel as though I’ve got a good rhythm at the moment and haven’t had time off for injuries. I went to Australia in the winter, so I’ve had a run of games for the last 10 months.

“That’s just what I needed and I’m enjoying playing games and having a good bowl.”

‘Big ambitions’

Right-arm seamer Haydon, who plays his cricket for Kenilworth Wardens, has previously been on the academy at Warwickshire.

And he has been playing for the Bears’ second team this summer as he bids to make a career on the first-class stage.

“I’m too old for the academy now, so I’m on trial at Warwickshire,” added Haydon. “I started off the year with a couple of second-team games and it’s good to play four-day cricket.

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“I’ve got ambitions to be a professional cricketer. We’ve got a couple of games left with Staffs and I want to put in performances.

“If you perform at NCCA level, then people are looking. There are eyes everywhere.

“It’s a battle to get into first-class and everyone my age wants to do the same thing.

“It is tough, but I just want to work hard and enjoy my cricket.”

‘Mentor role’

Haydon and Atkinson might be the young pups in the Staffs frontline seam attack, but they do have experience to lean on.

Former Lancashire paceman Liam Hurt linked up with Staffordshire for the 2023 campaign – and Haydon says he has been a good source of knowledge to tap into.

“Hurty has been great, especially in the 50-over stuff,” explained Haydon. “He stood at mid-off and taking the new ball in the powerplay can be challenging.

Staffordshire County Cricket Club's Sam Atkinson.
Sam Atkinson is one of Staffordshire’s young seam-bowling talents. Picture: Alfie Shenton

“But he was talking to me about plans all of the time. It’s really helpful.”

Haydon missed the defeat by Buckinghamshire at West Bromwich Dartmouth a fortnight ago because of unavailability.

And he had been restricted to just five overs in Suffolk’s second innings in the opening Championship clash because of an ankle issue.

‘Back in action’

However, he’s back to the peak of his powers and is in the side for this weekend’s long trip to play Norfolk for the latest three-day assignment.

Haydon believes that the long format can help his development.

“NCCA cricket is very strong and to be given the new ball and have the trust of Ketts (James Kettleborough) is brilliant,” he said.

“It’s a challenge, but it’s one that I am embracing. In multi-day cricket you have to be resilient with your line and length and be boring to a degree. It’s relentless.

“I enjoy all formats, but there’s something special about playing multi-day cricket.

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“It tests your ability as a cricketer and also the mental side of it.

“I was disappointed that I couldn’t bowl more in the second innings at Suffolk, but the team did exceptionally well with me and Hurty both being injured and still managing to get the win.

“It shows how strong we are and whatever is thrown at us, we grit our teeth, fight and don’t back away from things.

“I’d have loved to have played at West Brom, but there was an issue over my availability, and it was disappointing we couldn’t get the result.

“So we go to Norfolk looking to bounce back.”

‘Impressive display’

Haydon heads to East Anglia full of confidence after bowling impressively in Staffordshire’s DLS win in their NCCA Showcase Game against Leicestershire last weekend.

He picked up 2-38 from his 10 overs, dismissing Rishi Patel and Lewis Hill during an excellent unchanged spell.

And he believes that the culture being created by Carr and Kettleborough hints at good times ahead for the county.

“It was great to play against Leicestershire, you’re bowling at internationals like Peter Handscomb and you find out where you are as a player,” he added.

Staffordshire seamer Rory Haydon is congratulated after taking the wicket of Leicestershire's Rishi Patel in the NCCA Showcase Game.
Staffordshire seamer Rory Haydon is congratulated after taking the wicket of Leicestershire’s Rishi Patel in the NCCA Showcase Game. Picture: Alfie Shenton

“I’ve had bits and bobs at bowling at pros in the second team, but not as sustained as it was against Leicester.

“I was proud of the performance I managed to put in.

“This season has been great for Staffs. The leadership has been strong, we have clear plans and communication has been excellent.

“From my point of view, having the backing of Ketts and Carri has been good as well.

“We’ve got a good balance in the team with senior players like Ketts, Hurty, Bretty (Tom Brett) and Hilly (Michael Hill), and then there’s younger lads like me, Sam (Atkinson), Callum (Hawkins) and Nils (Priestley).

“It’s exciting times for us. The standard is really good and you know that if you have one spell, you’ve got to back it up.

“You learn your trade and hone your skills with the ball.”

Image: Rory Haydon has impressed in the Staffordshire attack this season. Picture: Alfie Shenton