Staffordshire beat Cheshire, but must wait to find out NCCA Twenty20 Cup fate

Staffordshire batsman Michael Hill made 65 not out against Cheshire.

Staffordshire survived a late Cheshire onslaught to claim a crucial NCCA Twenty20 Cup victory – but must now playing a waiting game to see if they have done enough to reach finals day.

The weather-related stop-start nature of the competition this season continued as the first match at Nantwich’s Whitehouse Lane was abandoned because of unfit conditions.

But they improved sufficiently for the second contest of the day to take place.

And that left Staffordshire knowing that they needed to win the afternoon encounter to keep themselves in the frame to finish top of the Group One.

It was perhaps fitting that they managed to secure a 10-run success – it was Staffordshire Day after all. But it required calm heads to see them over the line.

Remarkably, for Cheshire it was their first outing after seeing their five previous matches called off. And the defeat means they can no longer qualify for finals day.

‘Fingers crossed’

However, Staffs, who have now finished their group programme, will have a keen eye on Sunday’s final group games. They hope the right combination of results occur to enable them to reach the final four for the first time.

Cumbria and Northumberland are the two sides who can overhaul Staffordshire. However, both would need to win their final two matches and also overtake Staffs’ run-rate.

Cumbria entertain Cheshire at Netherfield, while Northumberland host Shropshire at South Northumberland.

Staffordshire captain James Kettleborough and seamer Liam Hurt celebrate the NCCA Twenty20 Cup win against Cheshire.
Staffordshire captain James Kettleborough and seamer Liam Hurt celebrate the NCCA Twenty20 Cup win against Cheshire.

Staffordshire have done all they can, though, and must now sit back and wait.

They also have the chance to draw breath after the second match against Cheshire eventually fell in their favour.

But that was not before Cheshire skipper Nick Anderson went on a late-innings hitting spree to keep the hosts in contention.

‘High entertainment’

Cheshire had been set 177 for victory – and were making good progress as opener Sam Perry had matters under control.

Staffs had made a breakthrough when Ali Chughtai fell to Sam Atkinson. Then Liam Banks castled former Leicestershire batsman Harry Dearden.

The game swung slightly in Staffordshire’s favour around the halfway point. The runs dried up to leave Cheshire requiring 100 off the last 10 overs.

That’s not an issue when Nantwich’s small straight boundaries are taken into consideration. But Staffs applied the brakes to leave Cheshire needing 69 off 36 balls.

All eyes were on Perry. However, in the 15th over he carved left-arm spinner Nils Priestley to Atkinson in the deep to fall for 72. His innings came off 46 deliveries and featured seven fours and two sixes.

Andrew Jackson holed out off slow left-armer Brett, ensuring that Cheshire needed 62 off the final five overs.

But skipper Anderson wasn’t in the mood to throw in the towel. He took 15 off the 16th over, which included two maximums.

‘Cool heads’

Priestley appeared to have put Staffordshire in the driving seat by only conceding two runs off the 17th, but Anderson continued to go big as the equation came down to 16 off the last six balls.

Staffordshire captain James Kettleborough threw the ball to ex-Lancashire paceman Liam Hurt – and the quick used his vast experience to shut the door on any final-over drama.

Rob Lord was run out off the first delivery, and Anderson couldn’t find the couple of boundaries his side needed.

Nils Priestley celebrates taking a Cheshire wicket.
Nils Priestley celebrates taking a Cheshire wicket.

Anderson was then run out for 34, having hit four sixes in his 16-ball innings.

It was then left to Hurt to close out proceedings as Cheshire drew stumps on 166-9. Priestley, Atkinson and Banks all finished with two wickets for Staffs.

Staffordshire might well have felt that they were a handful of runs short at the halfway stage after posting 176-5 from their allocation.

‘Hill’s classy innings’

Michael Hill was the glue which held the innings together with 65 not out – although Staffs’ flying start hinted that they might well have had their sights set higher than their eventual total.

The in-form Priestley fell early on, but Banks was in the mood to take advantage of the short boundaries. He pummelled Jackson for four successive sixes in taking 26 off an over.

But Cheshire reeled their neighbours back in as Banks fell for 38, and Kettleborough and Wilshaw swiftly followed to leave the visitors on 65-4.

Hill embarked on a recovery mission with Matthew Morris, who contributed 26, as the pair forged a vital fifth-wicket stand of 70.

‘Upping the rate’

Morris departed, but his key knock then allowed Hill and Hurt to step on the gas in the closing stages.

Hurt walked off with a breezy 16 not out to his name, although it was Hill who took the plaudits having hit three fours and five sixes in his 43-ball innings.

Lord was the pick of the Cheshire attack with figures of 2-28, and the home county’s batsmen then went to work on chasing down that target.

The run chase ebbed and flowed, but it was Staffordshire who held their nerve to keep their finals day chances intact.

Will they be heading to Tring Park later this month? We’ll find out in a few days.

Main image: Michael Hill made 65 not out in Staffordshire’s win against Cheshire. All pictures: Alfie Shenton