‘We can’t be complacent. Teams will want to beat us as champions’

Staffordshire County Cricket Club head coach Andy Carr

Andy Carr admits Staffordshire’s defence of their NCCA Twenty20 Cup crown has been made even harder by the weather.

Staffs defeated Cornwall in last year’s showpiece to win the competition for the first time in their history.

However, their bid to get off to a flying start in this summer’s short format was hampered by the elements.

Their double header against Cheshire at Checkley last weekend was abandoned due to damp patches on the outfield.

“It was very frustrating last week, but it was possibly the right decision really,” said head coach Carr.

“We had rain from about 5am until 1pm on top of what we had already had. We were so keen to get out there on grass, but it wasn’t to be for the players and umpires.

“The ground staff at Checkley did everything they could to get us playing. We would back ourselves in a reduced overs game, but that can make it more of a level playing field.”

The good news for Staffordshire was that the other contests in Group One between Northumberland and Cumbria also fell foul of the weather.

Electrical specialists CEF sponsor Staffordshire

That means all of the sides are level-pegging heading into a busy Bank Holiday which wraps up the initial stages of the competition.

Staffordshire entertain Northumberland at Burslem on Sunday, before heading up to Carlisle on Monday to face Cumbria.

In a revamped format, the top two from the five groups – plus the two best third-placed finishers – will qualify for a new-look Super 12s stage.

‘Time to shine’

Carr, though, is aware that last weekend’s outcome means his side can’t afford any slip ups if they want to advance to the next stage.

“No-one else played in the group, so it’s all-square, so we’re hoping to get games under our belt this weekend, starting on Sunday,” added Carr.

“There’s no room for error. If you play all three days and have a bad one, you can pull it back, but we can’t afford that in this situation.

“We know we have to play to our full potential if we want to go through. We can’t be complacent and people will be wanting to beat us because we’re the champions.”

Carr admitted that it’s going to test his squad this weekend with their hectic schedule.

The players will feature for their clubs on Saturday before their two-day stint on county duty.

Anis Raza helped Staffordshire to victory over Suffolk.
Anis Raza is in the Staffordshire squad for this weekend’s NCCA Twenty20 Cup matches.

“There’s concerns. Firstly there’s the travelling aspect, but also some of the lads will have had a limited amount of time on grass,” explained Carr.

“It’s tough on the bowlers. They only have to bowl four overs per game, but the ground is so heavy at the moment and it will take its toll.

“We’ve got to make sure we’re warmed up and ready to go. But on Monday night the players will be feeling it both physically and mentally.

“We have the makings of a good side, but we have to execute our plans really well if we want to get positive results.

“We’re definitely there to be shot down. We need to be fully focused and mindful that people are out to get us, so we can’t fall short.”

‘Squad selection’

Staffordshire have named a 13-man squad for Sunday’s encounter against Northumberland.

Ashcombe Park left-arm spinner Anis Raza is added to the 12 on duty for last weekend’s matches against Cheshire.

There are two changes to the squad for Monday.

Hishaam Khan and Tom Brett drop out due to unavailability, with Audley’s Jack Redman joining the travelling party.

Staffordshire name squads for Northumberland and Cumbria NCCA T20 Cup matches

Hopefully the weather will play ball and allow Staffordshire supporters to see Reeve Evitts in action.

Evitts, formerly on the Worcester Academy, is Staffs born and plays his club cricket for Kenilworth Wardens.

“Reeve and Hishaam have trained superbly indoors and it’s good to have them with us,” said Carr. “Reeve is a genuine all-rounder. He’s only 19, but is highly skilled and has played at a decent level.

“With bat or ball he could put us in a good position to win games.”

Main image: Staffordshire head coach Andy Carr says his side have no room for error in the NCCA Twenty20 Cup. Picture: Alfie Shenton

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