Staffordshire open up Championship season with victory at Suffolk

Staffordshire County Cricket Club spinner Tom Brett

Staffordshire brought an end to their Suffolk hoodoo to open their NCCA Championship campaign in perfect fashion with a 51-run win.

Staffs have come out on the wrong side of results against the East Anglians in recent seasons. But they managed to avoid that scenario from happening again.

Staffordshire squandered winning positions against them at Copdock in 2021 and at Checkley last summer.

And there was the very real prospect of ‘Bury St Edmunds 2023’ being added to list as Suffolk rallied in the afternoon session in pursuit of their 294-run victory target.

They were reduced to 98-6 at one stage. But a magnificent century from George Rhodes and spirited support from player-coach Andy Northcote revived their hopes.

The Suffolk pair put on 114 for the seventh wicket to arguably leave them nudging ahead of the game.

But after a couple of rain delays, Staffordshire managed to get the breakthrough they so badly needed when Tom Brett trapped Northcote lbw for 40.

‘Key moment’

That left Suffolk 212-7, but the match-defining moment came 23 runs later. Spinner Brett ended Rhodes’ excellent stay at the crease.

He was another lbw victim after making a fine 110. And the sense was that Suffolk’s hopes of victory disappeared back with him as he made his way to the dressing room.

Brett then had Daniel Shanks caught first ball as he chipped to Nils Priestley in the covers. He then bowled Freddie Heldreich to wrap up the Suffolk innings for 242.

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Brett finished with 5-79, while fellow spinner Anis Raza chipped in with 3-83.

Staffs were forced to be patient at times. And their performance was even more impressive considering their bowling resources were hampered by injury.

Paceman Liam Hurt was off the field all day as he nursed a knee injury. Rory Haydon was also only able to bowl five overs due to an ankle issue.

‘Quickly wrapped up’

Staffordshire had advanced from their overnight score of 167-8 to 187 all out on the back of Sam Atkinson’s 30.

He was the last man to fall, being caught by Josh Cantrell off the bowling of Jack Beaumont.

Cantrell had earlier bowled Rory Haydon to take the ninth Staffs wicket.

Atkinson then made an immediate impact in Suffolk’s run chase when he struck in his first over.

He tempted Adam Mansfield to waft at a delivery and he only succeeded in feathering a catch to wicketkeeper Callum Hawkins.

Anis Raza helped Staffordshire to victory over Suffolk.
Anis Raza helped Staffordshire to victory over Suffolk.

Haydon had been handed the new ball in Hurt’s absence. And he was soon on the board when he accounted for Suffolk skipper Beaumont.

Beaumont flashed at a wide ball, and sent the ball flying to Atkinson at second slip, who took an excellent catch.

That left Suffolk on 22-2 – but the impact of the Staffs youngsters was far from over yet.

With the score on 35, Hawkins executed a sharp stumping off left-arm spinner Tom Brett to dismiss Alex Oxley for 11.

And just one run later, Staffordshire pocketed their fourth victim of the Suffolk innings.

Ben Claydon was trapped lbw by slow left-armer Anis Raza early in his spell to leave the hosts in trouble on 36-4.

Staffs had their tails up at this point, but Rhodes and Ben Parker ensured that there were no further alarms. The players broke for lunch with Suffolk sitting on 76-4.

‘Early afternoon joy’

And Staffordshire didn’t have to wait too long into the afternoon action to pocket more success.

Raza was the man to get the ball rolling after lunch when he dismissed Parker (34). He provided catching practice to Matthew Morris at short leg as he tried to flick the ball off the back foot.

Suffolk were 94-5 at that point – and just four runs later they found themselves six wickets down.

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Cantrell, who had batted so impressively in the first innings on his way to a half-century, was deceived by a Raza delivery and bowled.

However, if Staffs thought that they had done the hard work they were sorely mistaken.

Rhodes and Northcote teamed up to forge an alliance. That not only frustrated the visitors, but put belief back in the home camp that they could complete a successful chase.

They settled into their roles neatly and appeared to be in little trouble as the afternoon session progress.


Kettleborough ran through a series of options, but nothing seemed to fall in Staffordshire’s favour.

So it was arguably not a bad thing when the rain arrived to send the players off for a couple of stoppages. That allowed Kettleborough and his players the chance to regroup.

An early tea was taken and Staffs desperately needed wickets as Suffolk nudged their way towards the favourites’ enclosure.

However, their momentum was slightly checked when Brett provided a big breakthrough when he trapped Northcote lbw.

Rhodes remained at the crease and he completed his century off 157 balls.

While he remained in situ all seemed well with the world from a Suffolk perspective. Time and run-rate not an issue in their bid to knock off the runs.

However, the dismissal of Rhodes for 110 then turned the tables in the contest as the final hour loomed into view.

There was certainly an element of relief when Staffordshire walked off the field, led by Brett after his debut five-wicket haul.

They showed resolve to keep plugging away against a side who they have struggled to enjoy too much success against in recent meetings.

Head coach Andy Carr and captain Kettleborough will have a few areas to iron out.

But a 24-point haul in the opening contest leaves them in good heart heading into their next assignment against Buckinghamshire at West Bromwich Dartmouth, which starts a week on Sunday.

Picture: Tom Brett took five wickets as Staffordshire beat Suffolk at Bury St Edmunds. Image: Alfie Shenton