Zen Malik: It’s important to learn lessons from our last Norfolk trip

Zen Malik is in the Staffordshire side to play Norfolk this weekend.

Zen Malik is one of the most entertaining batsmen to watch when in full flow – but he’s happy to be part of a ‘boring’ Staffordshire performance this weekend.

Batsman Malik is part of the Staffs team heading to Horsford’s Manor Park to take on Norfolk in NCCA Division One East.

And for Malik it’s an opportunity for the county to right some wrongs from their last visit to that part of East Anglia.

Staffs established an 80-run first-innings lead in their 2021 game, but were then rolled for 176 second time around.

And that enabled Norfolk to ease to a six-wicket win on the back of Sam Arthurton’s unbeaten 158.

“It’s one of those pitches at Norfolk where you have to be boring and wait for mistakes to happen,” said Malik.

“We learnt that lesson last time. We probably went into that match with an unbalanced attack, but this year we’ve got a much better team.

“Last time it was also a case where a bad session can kill you. If you have a bad session, you have to try to limit it.

“But we lost seven or wickets quickly in the second innings and that didn’t help.

“Sometimes in the third innings of a match, if you have a good first one, you can go through the motions.

“You kind of expect things to happen, rather than just resetting and going again. We have to make sure that regardless of how the first innings plays out, we go again. We must have that mindset.”

‘Fine form’

Malik missed the recent Championship defeat by Buckinghamshire at West Bromwich Dartmouth because of unavailability.

However, he kicked off Staffordshire’s three-day campaign with a fluent 81 in the first innings of the Suffolk victory.

He put on 159 for the second wicket with skipper James Kettleborough, who went on to make 141.

Malik says it was a pleasure to bat with Staffordshire’s new captain.

“It was frustrating to miss West Brom. I was going to play, but then had other commitments. The weather then hit and I was without a game,” he explained.

“I’m happy to be back and I’m really looking forward to it.

Rory Haydon relishing his big role in Staffordshire’s attack

“I felt good at Suffolk and I was disappointed to get 81 and not go on and get a 100. I should have got a big century like I did against them in 2022.

“Ketts took the pressure off me and we batted quite nicely together.

“He’s very calm and we have a good understanding and know each others strengths. Rotating the strike was a big thing and he was scoring a boundary every other over as well.

“Ketts is a class player and it’s good to bat with him. Hopefully we can have more partnerships moving forward.”

‘Senior service’

Malik, at the age of 25, has now been propelled into the ‘senior player’ category following a winter of change at the county.

Kettleborough and new head coach Andy Carr have put their faith in young players over the course of the campaign.

“There’s been changes to the squad and there’s a freshness about it,” added Malik.

“We have got younger lads coming in and pushing for county seconds spots, which is great.

Andy Carr burns the midnight oil to put Staffs back on track

“If you can build a team around three or four core players, then the youngsters can come in and express themselves. It’s about being consistent and making sure we are on it every game.

“I feel like I’m knocking on a bit now! I’ve spent a few years with the lads and I now happen to be one of the senior players.

“We’ve got 18, 19 and 20-year-olds in there, I’m a senior player, so I can have a bit more input on the pitch. I can give Ketts a hand. His decision-making is very good, but if I have an idea or thought, I’m happy to share it.”

‘Stay focused’

A win and a defeat from their opening two matches have left Staffordshire in second place in the table, 18 points adrift of Bucks.

That means they must win at Norfolk and then beat Lincolnshire at home to stand a chance of topping the standings. However, Malik is not paying too much attention to the table.

Instead he’s just keen to build on the DLS win in the NCCA Showcase Game against Leicestershire.

“Sometimes we can get caught up in qualification or finishing top of the table,” said Malik, who has been playing for Leicestershire seconds this season in his bid to break back into the first-class game.

Staffordshire change things up for trip to Norfolk

“It’s about focusing on performance with two matches left. We have to be as prepared as possible and make sure we put in performances. If we do that, the results will take care of themselves.

“We take lots of confidence from the Leicester game. It showed how strong we are and we can go up against the best NCCA sides.

“We learned a lot. When you’re bowling to the likes of Handscomb, Ackermann and Mulder, some of the lads haven’t been exposed to that.

“So we’ll take confidence from that. We’ve got a score to settle at Norfolk and with the squad we have, we are capable of putting to bed what happened the last time we were at Manor Park.”

Image: Zen Malik is in the Staffordshire side to play Norfolk this weekend. Picture: Alfie Shenton