Youngsters play lead roles as Staffordshire claim Knockout Trophy win

Sam Atkinson took three wickets in Staffordshire's NCCA Knockout Trophy win against Wales.

Staffordshire’s young pretenders played starring roles to help the county to make a winning start to their NCCA Knockout Trophy campaign.

Staffs prevailed by 55 runs against Wales at Port Talbot to open the 50-over format in ideal fashion.

The Group Four success owed much to the up-and-coming generation of Staffordshire cricketers.

Wicketkeeper-batsman Callum Hawkins, aged 19, played superbly for his 50 to top score in Staffs’ 188 all out, while the in-form Nils Priestley, aged 22, added 27.

Young seamers Sam Atkinson and Rory Haydon then claimed three wickets apiece to skittle Wales for 133 on a wicket which was two-paced and, at times, showed signs of uneven bounce.

That’s not to say that the experienced heads in the camp didn’t play their part.

Captain James Kettleborough chipped in with 25 with the bat. And there was the unlikely sight of Tom Brett, at the age of 33, plundering a couple of sixes on his way to a crucial 28 batting at number 11.

Brett then went on to take 2-14 from his miserly 10-over spell. But it was his batting exploits which helped to turn the tide and earned him the player-of-the-day accolade.

‘Hawkins impresses’

Staffordshire were invited to bat by their hosts. Hawkins, making his 50 over debut for the county highlighted the form he was in.

Hawkins has churned out back-to-back NSSCL Premier Division centuries for Moddershall & Oulton. And he looked to be in prime form as cut, pulled and drove with authority on his way to a 67-ball 50.

However, from the following delivery he misjudged the length from experienced spinner Brad Wadlan and was bowled. That was one of several Staffs dismissals which would have caused disappointment.

Opener Peter Wilshaw was the first to go, having shared a first-wicket stand of 40 with Hawkins. He chipped seamer Richie Edwards to Wadlan at mid-off to fall for seven.

Skipper Kettleborough, fresh was leading Staffs to their maiden T20 Cup title at Tring Park last weekend, was his usual busy presence at the crease and looked to be laying foundations for a big score.


But with the total on 79 he attempted to guide an Andrew Gorvin delivery down to third man. But he only succeeded in feathering an edge through to keeper Alex Horton.

Michael Hill fell cheaply for two, before Hawkins’ misjudgment saw his depart having hit six fours and one six to leave Staffordshire 91-4.

Matthew Morris could count himself unfortunate to be dismissed when he was out of his ground and Gorvin touched a straight drive from Nils Priestley on to the stumps with the 100 only just brought up.

Staffordshire’s innings was in danger of disintegrating as they then slumped from 132-5 to 139-9.

Dan Richardson was dismissed by Sam Pearce, Priestley edged Edwards behind and Atkinson fell first ball.

And when Hurt was caught and bowled by Edwards (4-33), Staffs were in dire straits. They needed something special to give them a defendable total.

‘Unlikely hero’

Step forward Brett, who mixed attacking intent with patience as he put on 49 for the 10th wicket with Haydon (18no).

Staffordshire needed a first-class bowling and fielding performance to ensure that they could kick off with a win.

And they made the perfect start as Haydon had Cameron Hemp caught behind by Hawkins for a duck.  Atkinson then trapped Callum Nicholls lbw as Wales slumped to 4-2.

Staffordshire County Cricket Club spinner Tom Brett
Tom Brett made a key contribution with the bat.

Steffan Roberts (33) and Horton (31) quelled that early Staffs onslaught.  But the latter departed with the score on 51 when he chipped Haydon to hurt at mid-off.

Haydon captured his third wicket when he accounted for the dangerous Wadlan, who pulled a short ball down the throat of Hill in the deep.

But from 64-4, Cameron Herring’s 22 enabled Wales to reach 101 – before Staffordshire delivered their killer blow to scupper Wales’ chances.

‘The door opened’

Herring was stumped by Hawkins off Brett, and the Staffs slow left-armer then took the scalp of William Smale.

Wales’ chances were ended when Roberts was yorked by Richardson. It was then only a matter of time before Staffs wrapping up the win.

Pearce was run out by Atkinson off his own bowling, while Edwards found the hands of Callum Leese.

And the win was completed when Atkinson breached the defences of Ben Morris to shatter the timbers.

Atkinson finished with 3-25, with Haydon scooping 3-32.

Staffordshire’s impressive bowling and fielding performance was the ideal tonic to make up for a below-par batting display.

And after winning the T20 Cup title last week, head coach Andy Carr and captain Kettleborough will have been delighted to have backed that up with victory in the first 50-over.

Staffs will look to back that up when they host Wiltshire at Smethwick on Sunday.

Main image: Sam Atkinson took three wickets for Staffordshire in the win against Wales. Picture: Alfie Shenton