‘Staffordshire produced the perfect Trophy performance’

Staffordshire County Cricket Club head coach Andy Carr

Andy Carr ranked Staffordshire’s Knockout Trophy win at Suffolk as one of the best performances of his reign.

Staffs cruised to a 116-run victory at Mildenhall to start their Group Two campaign in fine style.

Staffordshire failed to qualify from their group last summer – and head coach Carr promised a fresh approach to right those wrongs.

And it paid off handsomely on Sunday as Staffs outclassed the East Anglians in all disciplines to bring home the points.

“For me, it was a typical blueprint of what we want to be,” said Carr, who took charge ahead of last season. “From the classroom in the winter, to talking at training sessions, setting up scenarios, pre-game plans and execution, it was perfect.

“It’s up there with one of the best performances since I’ve been in the role.

“Batting, bowling and fielding, it was pretty much what we wanted.

“The plans we talked about, we tried to hide them as much as possible. But it was a totally different approach to last year and it paid off.”

‘Hard work pays off’

Last year, Staffs attacked the powerplay hard, but in the process lost early wickets which left them with a rebuilding job.

At Suffolk, it was more a case of steady accumulation and keeping wickets in hand for a late charge.

That worked a treat as skipper James Kettleborough’s 100, 82 not out from Michael Hill and 63 from Zen Malik propelled them to 286-3 from their 50 overs.

“In the 10-over powerplay we had 43 dot balls,” added Carr. “It was about making sure the top order were as greedy as possible.

Staffordshire County Cricket Club captain James Kettleborough.
James Kettleborough scored a century in Staffordshire’s NCCA Knockout Trophy win against Suffolk at Mildenhall. Picture: Pete Stonier

“Hilly is a prolific boundary scorer. But the track was not as firm as it looked and it was hard to score boundaries.

“Zen set it up nicely at the top of the order. He will hold his hands up and admit he could have gone on to make a really big score.

“But it wasn’t meant to be, although he set the platform for Ketts and Hilly.”

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Carr also reserved special praise for Kettleborough following his 108-ball ton. Kettleborough’s wife Jenny gave birth to daughter Grace on Friday afternoon – and the county skipper then capped a memorable few days with his century.

“It was great to watch Hilly and Ketts batting,” explained Carr. “Ketts had minimal sleep since Wednesday before the baby arrived.

“He wasn’t 100 per cent sure he’d be available, so the hundred meant a lot to him.

“It’s one of the best innings I’ve seen him play.”

‘Building pressure’

Staffordshire’s bowlers then came to the fore to dismiss Suffolk for 170.

Tight bowling pushed the run-rate up before Nils Priestley produced a record-breaking spell to dismantle the home side.

Priestley became the first Staffordshire player to take six wickets in a Knockout Trophy tie, finishing with 6-37, including a hat-trick.

“Hurty (Liam Hurt) bowled a really quick opening spell and was hitting the keeper’s gloves hard,” said Carr.

“At the halfway point, Suffolk were up with us, but had probably lost a wicket more than they would have liked.

Tom Brett then came on and killed the game with his spell. Sam Atkinson was also excellent and bounced back from last week really well.

“Then Nils stole the show with his spell.”

Carr was delighted with his side’s start, but is determined to remain level headed.

Staffs switch back to the T20 format with the Super 12s this weekend, before picking up the 50-over competition again next month.

“We’ve got to keep the momentum going,” said Carr. We can’t get giddy or complacent after one game. We’re in a good place with so many options and we’re not reliant on any one individual.”

Main image: Staffordshire head coach Andy Carr was delighted with his side’s performance in the NCCA Knockout Trophy game against Suffolk. Picture: Pete Stonier