Spencer Byatt determined to seize his big Staffordshire chance

Staffordshire County Cricket Club wicketkeeper-batsman Spencer Byatt.

Spencer Byatt admits he wasn’t sure whether he’d be picked by Staffordshire this summer. But is now preparing for this weekend’s NCCA Twenty20 Cup finals day.

Byatt made his debut for the county in 2019 and enjoyed a superb first summer representing Staffs as he helped them to reach the Championship final.

However, after Covid wiped out the 2020 campaign, Byatt found himself on the sidelines as Alex Mellor took on keeping duties.

Byatt featured in two T20 double headers in 2022. But game time was limited due to Mellor’s role as gloveman and opening batsman.

However, Byatt is playing a more prominent role in the squad once again under the leadership of new head coach Andy Carr and skipper James Kettleborough.

But he still faced an anxious wait to see whether he would be picked to play Berkshire in Sunday’s T20 semi-final at Tring Park.

Staffordshire’s first Group One game against Cumbria fell victim to the weather, before Byatt played in the two games up at Northumberland.

He was unavailable for the encounters against Shropshire and Cheshire, which opened the door for Callum Hawkins to stake his claim.

‘Keeping mission’

Byatt is back, though, for this weekend’s showpiece day – and he’s eager to stamp his authority on the position.

“I wasn’t sure whether I would be selected at the start of the season, let alone for finals day,” said the 29-year-old Nantwich wicketkeeper-batsman.

“But I’ve been given the chance and hopefully I can look forward to the next batch of white-ball games as well.

“I’ve not played red ball for Staffs since 2019. That’s the format I want to play because you don’t get to experience three-dayers anywhere else.

“With the gloves I will always back myself, but batting-wise Mell took the lead. There’s only one spot with the gloves.

Redman and Raza lead the way in Staffordshire Development XI win

“It was frustrating and I didn’t net ahead of the 2022 season because I thought Mell would be the one selected.

“I see this as a big chance for myself. I realise I’m not getting any younger. I’m 30 this year and it gets complicated at NCCA level with the age restrictions.

“Callum is young and coming through and is very good with the bat, but I’d like to put my stamp on the place for the next couple of years.”

‘Healthy competition’

Byatt says the competition for the keeping spot with Hawkins is a positive one for Staffordshire.

And he also insists that the influence of Carr and Kettleborough has played a big part in Staffs topping Group One of the short format and progressing to finals day for the first time.

“We wintered well and concentrated on T20 cricket,” added Byatt. “That wasn’t always the format which took the fancy of players, but it was this year.

Spencer Byatt in action for club side Nantwich.
Staffordshire County Cricket Club’s Spencer Byatt in action for club side Nantwich.

“Andy and Ketts have brought a structure into it. The bowlers worked on what they wanted to, so did the batters. We also did keeping sessions.

“It’s not just been about turning up for a net. We’ve focused on specific areas and got plenty out of the sessions. The focus has been really good.

“It’s been stop-start for everyone in terms of the season with the weather we’ve had.

“I was gutted to miss the two games and there is competition with Callum. But that’s a good dilemma for Andy and Ketts to have in terms of selection.”

‘Time to make amends’

Byatt was part of the Staffs side which lost to Berkshire by one wicket in the Championship final at Banbury four years’ ago.

It might be a different format this weekend, but Byatt is ready to banish that memory.

“Hopefully we can put the situation right against Berkshire,” he said. “We didn’t take our opportunities when we last played them.

Staffordshire name squad for NCCA Twenty20 Cup finals day

“We’ve shown that we are strong in the three-day stuff and you sometimes think back to that 2019 final.

“We can’t just look at the fact we lost by one wicket. We didn’t set things up on the first day with the bat.

“This is a different format at the weekend, but we’ve shown this season we can compete in T20 cricket.

“We have put scores on the board and bowled really well. We can be destructive as we showed at Northumberland in the shortened game.”

Spencer Byatt is being kindly sponsored by Elevation Brickwork Limited for the 2023 season.

Main image: Staffordshire County Cricket Club wicketkeeper-batsman Spencer Byatt