Staffordshire have point to prove, insists Callum Hawkins

Staffordshire County Cricket Club's Callum Hawkins

Callum Hawkins insists Staffordshire are revved up for the NCCA Championship campaign as they look to return to winning ways.

It’s been another roller-coaster ride for the county in the white-ball format this season.

Their exploits have mirrored last summer when they qualified for T20 Cup finals day, but fell flat in the Knockout Trophy.

But after a week or two of shrugging off the disappointment of not qualifying from their 50-over Trophy group, Hawkins says Staffs are ready to rock and roll in the Championship.

It all kicks off on Sunday when Staffordshire entertain Bedfordshire at Checkley for the first of four three-day matches in Division One East.

Staffordshire generally impressed in the Championship season as they finished in second place in the division, just four points off top spot.

Their only defeat was by Buckinghamshire, who went on to win the overall title.

“In my head, what has happened in the 50-over games this season is fuel for the fire in terms of red-ball cricket,” said wicketkeeper-batsman Hawkins.

“It’s a different format, but we should feel as though we have a point to prove, especially results-wise.

“We want positive results in the three-dayers and hopefully our experiences can spur us on. Last year I learned a lot playing red-ball cricket for Staffs. Every session is so key.

“You can’t win a game in one session, but you can go a long way to losing one.

“There’s the importance of staying in the moment because it’s a good challenge.”

Hawkins, who made his county debut last season, goes into the Championship in good heart.

‘Confidence boost’

Although Staffs didn’t emerge with too much collective credit from the 50-over programme, Hawkins did deliver.

In the final game, a defeat by Shropshire, he made 99 on his home ground of Moddershall & Oulton.

He admits it was an innings good for confidence, but there was disappointment he couldn’t chalk up a maiden Staffs ton in front of family and friends.

“I’d by lying if I said I hadn’t thought about that one run,” added the 20-year-old.

“Obviously it’s not going to happen now and I’ve got to move on from it.

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“I really don’t know what I was thinking. I walked at the bowler, which I hadn’t done all day, and dollied it to point.

“As I walked off, I was thinking ‘why?’. That was probably the process going through my head at the time.

“It’s always nice to score runs, but I’d have preferred to have got 50 or 60 and us win the game.

“It never feels the same if you get a score but the team doesn’t win.”

‘Upturn in weather’

For the second successive year, Staffordshire failed to emerge from their Knockout Trophy group.

That has left captain James Kettleborough and head coach Andy Carr going back to the drawing board as they look to find a solution.

“Personally, I just think we didn’t really click,” explained Hawkins.

“We were maybe on the wrong side of a couple of tosses and there were times when the pitch didn’t play as we though it might.

Staffordshire County Cricket Club's Callum Hawkins
Staffordshire’s Callum Hawkins made 99 in the Knockout Trophy loss to Shropshire. Picture: Pete Stonier

“Then you lose games and that contributes to losing confidence.

“The weather has made it difficult as well. Players haven’t been able to practice too much and on a Saturday it’s been stop-start.

“But the last couple of weeks have been beneficial and it’s been good to spend some time at the crease.”

‘Familiar face’

Hawkins could be joined in Staffordshire’s side by his Moddershall & Oulton team-mate Jacob Garlick.

The paceman has been named in the 12-man squad for this weekend’s encounter.

And Hawkins is ready to have some bruised hands if Garlick gets the nod to play.

“I hope so!” he said. “Jake is raw and exciting. He has the ability to swing the ball at a good pace.

“As a batter that’s never a nice thing to face.

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“When he’s got his rhythm he’s up there in terms of quick bowlers.

“He recently bowled a spell at Checkley which was pretty rapid.”

The main ambition over the three days is to get off to a winning start, however.

The home clash against Beds is followed by a trip to Lincolnshire, a meeting with Suffolk at Stafford before a road journey to take on Bucks.

“Last year we managed to start off with a positive result down at Suffolk,” explained Hawkins.

“It would be nice to repeat that and good for the morale of the lads.

“It’s been a while since we won a game, so we need to remind ourselves of that feeling and get a result.

“Hopefully I can play my part. I’m going OK at the minute and I just want to contribute – whether that is with the gloves or bat – to us winning matches.”

Main image: Callum Hawkins is looking to help Staffordshire make a winning start against Bedfordshire this weekend. Picture: Pete Stonier