Staffordshire players are hungry for more success, says captain Kettleborough

Staffordshire County Cricket Club head coach Andy Carr, left, and captain James Kettleborough with the NCCA Twenty20 Cup

James Kettleborough says Staffordshire’s cricketers are intent on sampling more successful days after lifting the NCCA Twenty20 Cup.

Kettleborough, in his first season as Staffs captain, guided his side to a tense four-run victory over Cornwall in the final at Tring Park on Sunday.

It was the first time Staffordshire had ever won the National Counties Cricket Association competition – and it marked a remarkable start to the reign of Kettleborough and new head coach Andy Carr, who have only been in their respective posts since the winter.

Staffordshire defeated Berkshire by 68 runs in their semi-final after piling up 252-2 on the back of Nils Priestley’s stunning 147 not out.

And they then kept their composure to beat fellow finals day debutants Cornwall in the showpiece.

“These things can sometimes take time and you need to be patient,” explained Kettleborough, who won his first trophy at NCCA level.

“Myself and Andy have been honest and said we’re going to make mistakes, but we will get things right in time.

“This victory is a reflection of the talent and quality we have in the group. We had an idea about what we wanted to achieve and the environment we wanted to create.

“The talent we have has accelerated that. I wasn’t surprised that we won it because of our quality. But probably a bit surprised we’ve come as far as we have in such a short space of time.

“We want to be part of days like Sunday on a consistent basis and create that winning mentality. We want to keep things positive and it really does set the tone for the season.”

‘Two different ways of winning’

After a blistering batting performance in their semi-final success, Staffordshire had to show their battling qualities to edge the final.

They were bowled out for just 119, but managed to defend that target as Cornwall fell short of clinching the silverware.

“It’s surreal and satisfying to win,” said 30-year-old Kettleborough. “I’m in my 14th year playing at this level. I’ve never had a feeling like that, given the scale of the day and coming away with the trophy.

“When we were bowled out for 119, I didn’t think it was game over. I’d have liked 130 or 140, but it was still runs on the board in a final.

Staffordshire County Cricket Club celebrate winning the NCCA Twenty20 Cup
Staffordshire County Cricket Club celebrate winning the NCCA Twenty20 Cup.

Chasing down a score to win a trophy is never easy, so I knew that we had a chance. We took wickets and created pressure. There was loads of energy in the field and they never really ran away from us.

“We had them 45-4 and then a couple of their batsmen played nicely and rotated the strike well. At 90-4 I started to think the game was drifting away from us. But then we managed to get a couple of quick wickets.”

Priestley picked up four wickets in the final, while the off-spin of Peter Wilshaw proved to be decisive as he conceded just six runs from three overs.

That left Cornwall needing 11 to win off the final six balls, but former Lancashire seamer Liam Hurt held his nerve.

‘High praise’

“Nils has been unbelievable for us in the whole competition,” said Checkley batsman Kettleborough.

“It wasn’t just his hundred, but his 57 was crucial in the final, as were his wickets.

“Pete is not that well-known for his bowling but he has lots of experience and loads of fight in him. He always wants to be involved in the game.

“Pete did what he does. He has lots of experience at this level, he’s got a great character and he’s invaluable to the group. I had full confidence in Liam seeing the job through in the last over as well.

Staffordshire County Cricket Club celebrate winning the NCCA Twenty20 Cup
Staffordshire County Cricket Club were crowned NCCA T20 Cup champions.

“He’s a class act and we signed him for moments like that.”

Kettleborough and his Staffordshire players are swiftly back in action when they start their NCCA Knockout Trophy group campaign.

They kick off with a long trip to Port Talbot to take on Wales.

“When we managed to get over the line there was a sense of relief and then pride in what we had achieved,” explained Kettleborough.

“We’ve been part of something very special and we can enjoy it and savour it.

“At the start of the process we spoke about winning silverware, but we have to start from scratch again in a fresh competition at the weekend.”

Main image: Staffordshire head coach Andy Carr, left, and captain James Kettleborough with the NCCA Twenty20 Cup. Pictures: Alfie Shenton