‘We can’t be complacent when we start Knockout Trophy programme’

Staffordshire County Cricket Club captain James Kettleborough

James Kettleborough says it’s time for Staffordshire to cut short the celebrations and get back down to business.

Kettleborough skippered Staffs to glory in the National Counties Cricket Association Twenty20 Cup at Tring Park on Sunday.

It was the first time Staffordshire had won the short-format competition – and came in the first season under the captaincy of Kettleborough and new head coach Andy Carr.

The county leader has allowed himself time to digest the magnitude of the achievement. But he’s now preparing for a fresh challenge.

It’s a quick turnaround for Staffs as they head to Port Talbot to play Wales in their opening Knockout Trophy 50-over clash on Sunday.

“It has been nice to reflect on everything that happened last Sunday and let it soak in,” said Kettleborough.

“I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve watched various clips of the day. It has been nice to sit down and take it all in.

“But it’s time to park that for now and focus on the Wales game. The vibes are very positive at the moment and we can take those into the new format.

“I don’t think it will be difficult to get the lads tuned into the new format. We know we can’t be complacent and get carried away by what we achieved in the T20s.

“We can’t be successful without putting in the hard yards. It’s important that we nail our processes but the players have played enough to realise that.”

‘Maintaining the winning habit’

Staffordshire make the long trip to Port Talbot looking to make amends in the 50-over competition.

In recent seasons they have generally performed well but last summer they flopped after losing three out of their four group games.

The feel-good factor is there in the white-ball competitions following Sunday’s exploits, which arguably brings a touch more pressure on Staffordshire’s shoulders.

“I suppose there is a bit of extra pressure on us now but for me it’s what we would have wanted – winning a trophy,” added Kettleborough.

“There’s no reason why we can’t continue to do well but there’s no easy games in any of the NCCA competitions.

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

“We need to be on it from ball one against Wales because it’s a tough game for us.

“We’d love to have success in the 50-over format, although it’s a long journey to do that.

“The T20s have the groups and finals day, whereas you have the four group games in the 50s and then quarters, semis and final on different days.

“We can’t get ahead of ourselves and the main focus is getting off to a good start.”

‘Young squad’

Staffordshire have a youthful squad making this weekend’s trip. That includes a first call-up to the 12-man travelling party for Hem Heath all-rounder Callum Leese.

Leese impressed for the NSSCL representative side in the pre-season friendlies against Staffs at Caverswall.

He smashed five sixes in his 48 not out in a losing cause in the first match, and then made 34 in game two, which the league side won.

And Kettleborough has witnessed first hand Leese’s talent after he made an unbeaten 65 to steer Hem Heath to the points against Kettleborough’s Checkley last Saturday.

Staffordshire players are hungry for more success, says captain Kettleborough

“We came away from the two friendlies at Caverswall talking about Callum,” explained Kettleborough.

“He left a big impression on myself and Andy (Carr). A lot of people would have pushed the argument that he should have been involved in the T20 matches – and his name did come up.

“At Caverswall he showed how destructive he can be and he was the one batsman keeping them together in that game.

“In the league game at Hem Heath he showed maturity. They weren’t chasing a big score but he knew that if he was there at the end they’d win.

Our NCCA Twenty20 Cup finals day victory in pictures

“He provides another spin option as well and has something about him. He looks like he has plenty of fight.

“We picked an initial squad over the winter but it was never a closed shop and if people put in performances for their clubs, they would be noticed.

“Callum has stuck his hand up. We have a youthful look to the squad this weekend. But whichever way we go with the side, it still has plenty of talent and quality.”

‘Paceman returns’

There is also a return to the squad for seamer Rory Haydon. He has previously played two Knockout Trophy games for the county, making his debut in 2021 at Shropshire.

The former Leek paceman is part of the Warwickshire Academy and now plays his club cricket for Kenilworth Wardens.

Callum Hawkins returns to glove duty to replace the unavailable Spencer Byatt. Byatt was behind the stumps for Sunday’s NCCA Twenty20 Cup finals day success.

Nils Priestley is also named in the Staffordshire line-up after his finals day heroics at Tring Park.

The 22-year-old smashed 147 not out in the semi-final win against Berkshire. He then scored a half-century and took four wickets in the narrow victory over Cornwall in the final.

Staffordshire (from): James Kettleborough (cpt, Checkley), Sam Atkinson (Moddershall & Oulton), Tom Brett (Finedon Dolben), Callum Hawkins (Moddershall & Oulton), Michael Hill (Meakins), Rory Haydon (Kenilworth Wardens), Liam Hurt (Flixton), Callum Leese (Hem Heath), Matthew Morris (Westhoughton), Nils Priestley (Swarkestone), Dan Richardson (Moddershall & Oulton), Peter Wilshaw (Meakins).

James Kettleborough is being kindly sponsored by Sharp, Cross & Mann Solicitors for the 2023 season.

Main image: James Kettleborough has called for focus when Staffordshire make the trip to Wales this weekend. Pictures: Alfie Shenton