‘We just weren’t at the races for all three days’

Staffordshire County Cricket Club captain James Kettleborough.

James Kettleborough admits he was left bitterly disappointed by Staffordshire’s performance in their defeat by Buckinghamshire.

Staffs surrendered their unbeaten record at West Bromwich Dartmouth, which dated back to 2014, following an eight-wicket loss in their National Counties Cricket Association Division One East clash.

Staffordshire were well off the pace throughout the three days as newly-promoted Bucks made it back-to-back wins to move 18 points clear at the summit.

Staffs failed to fire in all facets of the game as they missed the chance to build on their opening victory at Suffolk.

“It was very disappointing,” said skipper Kettleborough. “We just weren’t at the races for the three days.

“When we set out our ambitions at the start of the season – and with the quality we have – it’s a tough pill to swallow when we perform like that.

“We just made more mistakes than we could afford to do. Bucks have had a template of how they want to play for the last couple of seasons.

“They’ve won eight of their last 10 Championship matches with a clear plan.

“We were open and honest that we’re going to make mistakes and we’re accepting of that, but it was simple things that we were getting wrong.”

‘Actions needed, not words’

Staffordshire’s seamers failed to fire as the bowled the wrong line and length to seriously trouble the Bucks batting.

Buckinghamshire had pitched the ball up and reaped rewards, but Staffs bowled too short and wide.

“You can have a bad session or even two and you address the issues and correct them,” added Kettleborough.

“We did address the errors and had a debrief about what we needed to do. But then we couldn’t action that chat and you’re left scratching your head as to why.

“The template of playing three-day cricket is pretty simple, but it’s all about the execution.

“Buckinghamshire had their plan and managed to execute it and it was tough to play against. We were off the mark and it’s cost us with the end result.”

‘Keeping calm’

Staffordshire’s batting was below-par at Sandwell Park.

They were dismissed for 208 in their first innings, before managing only 232 second time around.

That meant Bucks required just 111 for victory – and they easily knocked off that meagre target.

There were a few highlights from a batting perspective as Matthew Morris compiled a half-century in the first innings and Nils Priestley and Liam Hurt did likewise second time around.

Staffordshire County Cricket Club's Matthew Morris celebrates reaching his half-century against Buckinghamshire.
Staffordshire County Cricket Club’s Matthew Morris celebrates reaching his half-century against Buckinghamshire.

Priestley had also contributed 48 to Staffordshire’s first-innings effort.

However, despite being below-par in the second innings in the win at Suffolk and both ventures to the crease against Bucks, Kettleborough is keeping a cool head.

“The batting isn’t too much of a concern at the moment,” explained Kettleborough.

“Not everyone can perform all of the time, but you just want a couple of people to stand up.

“And when someone gets in they have to go on and get a big score, but that didn’t happen.”

‘Still in the hunt’

Staffordshire must now win their last two Championship matches – at Norfolk a week on Sunday and then at home to Lincolnshire – to stand any chance of wining the division.

Bucks will also need to slip up to open the door for Staffs, but Kettleborough isn’t throwing in the towel.

“There’s still a chance of winning it, of course there is,” he added.

“What happens in Bucks’ last two games is out of our control, all we can do is look to get as many of the 48 points available as we can.

“There was frustration at the end of the three days, and I’ve asked the guys to reflect on where things went wrong.

“Myself and Andy (Carr, head coach) are also asking questions of ourselves and how we approach the Norfolk game.

“We won’t make changes for the sake of it. If we make changes it will be to give ourselves the best chance of winning at Norfolk.

“We’ve already had conversations about how we go about things in our next match, which have been very comprehensive.”

Picture: Staffordshire captain James Kettleborough was left frustrated by his side’s performance against Buckinghamshire. Image: Alfie Shenton

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