National Counties Cricket Association

National Counties Cricket Association

Staffordshire Set For Title Defence

25 April 2024
Staffordshire Set For Title Defence

Staffordshire Head Coach Andy Carr knows that his side that will be the one that the others want to beat as they launch their defence of their National Counties T20 title on Sunday April 28.

Staffordshire won the competition for the first time last May when they beat Cornwall in a tense final at Tring Park and start their defence with a local derby double-header against Cheshire at Checkley on Sunday

“We have to accept that, being champions, everybody else is going to up their game against us. Certainly we can’t be complacent and we have talked about this a lot as a group,” Carr said.

“We have strengthened our squad but we know that we can’t take our finger off the pulse and we have a tough group to get through.

“But we are fully aware that other lads will raise their game against us as champions.”

Staffordshire’s preparations for Sunday’s opener have already been affected by the weather. The match was originally scheduled to be played at Knypersley but has now been switched to Checkley – Carr’s home club – in the hope that conditions will be playable after a soggy autumn, winter and spring.

“Pretty much everybody in North Staffordshire is in the same boat. Some grounds are a little bit more advanced than others and that’s not down to groundsmanship it’s down to where the grounds are located unfortunately,” Carr said.

“It’s important that we try to get out there and get the game on because with the change in format this season we have a very tight schedule.

“In normal conditions it would run quite smoothly. But with only three group double-headers, if you don’t play one of those and others play then you are on the back foot a little bit.

“I’m sure that all the other 19 counties will be doing the same to try to get a game on.”

The new format will see the 20 National Counties compete in five groups of four followed by four Super 12s mini-tournaments each involving three counties to produce the four sides who will contest Finals Day at Chester Boughton Hall on May 26.

The changes were introduced mainly as a consequence of rain decimating last season’s competition but another extremely wet winter has again proved challenging for players, coaches, groundstaff and administrators even with the season starting two weeks later.

The wet weather has already forced the cancellation of Staffordshire’s planned warm-up matches against a North Staffordshire/South Cheshire Premier League XI and Shropshire so it will be no surprise if the defending champions are a little ring-rusty this weekend.

“We had those fixtures lined up for some time so we were keen to get out on grass and get all the lads together and have a look at our new signings,” Carr said.

“Unfortunately, the weather prevented us from doing that. There are some lads who have had the opportunity to play on grass who are playing with first-class counties or in Second XI cricket. But the majority have not got out on grass yet.”

One of the players who has managed to play outdoors is all-rounder Nils Priestley who has been playing for Derbyshire – who released him three years ago – in their Second XI Championship match against Nottinghamshire at Lady Bay.

Priestley’s blistering century swept Staffordshire to victory over Berkshire in last season’s T20 semi-final and helped to revive his hopes of a second chance of a career in first-class cricket.

Staffordshire have strengthened their squad with the addition of two Warwickshire Academy prospects, England Under-19 leg-spinner Tazeem Ali and Yusuf Khalil, plus former Bradford/Leeds UCCE left-arm pace bowler Hishaam Khan.

Kenilworth Wardens all-rounder Reeve Evitts is also expected to feature having been registered last season.

“We have some fresh faces who are going to add some strength to the existing squad. They have all wintered well and it will be nice to see the lads out in grass and making the transition from indoor to outdoor,” Carr said.

But Staffordshire will be missing one significant figure in all-rounder Pete Wilshaw who retired last season having made more than 180 appearances across all formats in a 21-year career.

The recent bad weather has also forced Cornwall to switch this weekend’s T20 double header against Devon to St Just from waterlogged Werrington.

Cornwall have also moved the double-header against Dorset on Sunday May 5 from Wadebridge to Truro with two further venue changes on Monday May 6.

Wales NC’s matches against Shropshire will now be played at St Asaph not Brymbo and Cheshire’s double-headers against Northumberland have been moved to Oxton from Alderley Edge.

National Counties T20

Sunday April 28 (11am)

Group One: Northumberland v Cumbria (South Northumberland), Staffordshire v Cheshire (Checkley).

Group Two: Cambridgeshire v Suffolk (Exning), Norfolk v Lincolnshire (Great Witchingham).

Group Three: Buckinghamshire v Bedfordshire (High Wycombe), Berkshire v Hertfordshire (Wargrave),

Group Four: Oxfordshire v Shropshire (Wormsley), Wales NC v Herefordshire (Llandysul).

Group Five: Cornwall v Devon (St Just), Dorset v Wiltshire (Wimborne).

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