Staffordshire share the spoils with Northumberland in NCCA Twenty20 Cup

Staffordshire County Cricket Club captain James Kettleborough.

It was a case of honours even as Staffordshire and Northumberland won a game apiece in their NCCA Twenty20 Cup meetings.

Staffordshire took the points in the morning Group One contest at Burslem, but Northumberland rallied in the afternoon to earn some reward from the day.

Staffs had seen their opening double header against Cheshire last week abandoned, although the elements were much more conducive at Festival Heights.

James Kettleborough was Staffordshire’s hero in the opening match with an unbeaten 63 to see the hosts past their rivals’ 160-5 with just two balls remaining.

That four-wicket win was the ideal start to the day, which was played in front of a bumper crowd.

However, Staffordshire disappointed in match two and were dismissed for just 124 after opting to bat.

That target never really troubled the visitors, who eased over the line to secure an eight-wicket win with more than two overs in the tank.

Northumberland had been quick out of the blocks in the opening encounter with Alasdair Appleby and John Oswell both showing off their big-hitting prowess.

After 10 overs they had navigated Northumberland to an imposing 98-0 – and with sights firmly set on a score nudging towards the 200-mark.

Staffordshire would have been disappointed with their bowling performance in the opening half as they struggled to find consistent lines and lengths.

‘Battling back’

However, to their credit, they shrugged off that section of the contest and battled back into contention as they restricted Northumberland to just 62 runs in the last 60 deliveries.

Oswell was the first to fall, with the score on 106 when he was bowled by spinner Matt Morris for 50. He hit four fours and three sixes.

And opening partner Appleby was then heading back to the pavilion as he was dismissed by debutant Hishaam Khan well caught by Rory Haydon, for 54.

Staffordshire County Cricket Club's Callum Hawkins.
Staffordshire County Cricket Club’s Callum Hawkins looks for a stumping chance. Picture: Pete Stonier

Appleby’s innings featured four boundaries and three maximums.

Staffordshire badly needed those breakthroughs – and there was more joy for them when the dangerous Jacques Du Toit became Morris’ second victim when he feathered a catch through to keeper Callum Hawkins.

That left Northumberland on 125-3, but Ross Whitfield played impressively for his 37 not out to steer Northumberland to their final total, despite Liam Hurt’s two late wickets.

Northumberland would have been eyeing up a more sizeable target. But their hopes were given a boost when they dismissed Staffordshire’s Nils Priestley cheaply in the run chase.

‘Key alliances’

However, that merely brought Kettleborough to the crease and he used his experience to chip away at the target.

He initially joined forces with Zen Malik, who struck three four and three sixes in his 39 before he was trapped lbw by left-arm spinner Oli McGee attempting to slog sweep.

That ended a 63-run alliance, but Kettleborough found a new ally in Michael Hill to keep Staffordshire in contention.

The pair put on 50, before Hill departed for 35 to leave Staffordshire 118-3, before Khan fell in the same over.

The match ebbed and flowed as profitable Staffs overs were followed by tight ones from Northumberland.

Hurt and Callum Hawkins were both accounted for by Sean Tindale, but Kettleborough was still in residence.

And having hit five fours and one six, he guided Staffordshire across the finishing line to seal the morning spoils.

‘Batting first’

Staffordshire took first use in match two – and were given a flying start by Priestley and Zen Malik.

The pair had rattled along at a fair rate early on before Malik was out for 26 from the final ball of the fourth over with the score on 48 as Ben Robinson took an excellent catch in the deep.

Priestley departed six balls later when his reverse sweep off McGee only succeeded in finding Matthew Oswell.

Staffordshire's Matt Morris celebrates taking a Northumberland wicket.
Staffordshire’s Matt Morris celebrates taking a Northumberland wicket. Picture: Pete Stonier

And that gave Northumberland the impetus to take control of the innings, aided by some impressive bowling and some excellent catches.

Kettleborough, Hill, Morris and Callum Hawkins all fell cheaply as Staffs ended the 11th over on 77-6.

Northumberland were in the driving seat, but Reeve Evitts showed maturity to keep Staffs ticking along.

The 19-year-old finished unbeaten on 30 before Staffs were eventually bowled out in the final over.

‘Not enough’

That total didn’t feel as though it was going to be enough to truly test Northumberland.

And Appleby and Oswell once again provided solid foundations to the chase as they broke the back of the target with a key stand.

Oswell was bowled by Sam Atkinson for 34, but by that stage, Northumberland had 72 on the board – and still half of their 20 overs left.

Appleby followed to Morris for 40, although it didn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things.

Staffs were always chasing their tails. And Harry Crawshaw’s 35 not out led Northumberland to the winning post with ease.

Staffordshire now face Cumbria in a double header at Carlisle tomorrow as they look to seal their place in the Super 12s stage.

Main image: James Kettleborough scored an unbeaten half-century to help Staffordshire in victory in game one against Northumberland. Picture: Pete Stonier