Staffs dish out debuts
Squad named for Unicorns Knockout Trophy tie at Hertfordshire
Kadeer Ali admits last summer’s Unicorns Knockout Trophy disappointment is still fresh in his mind as the county prepare to launch this summer’s campaign.
Staffs head to Bishop’s Stortford to take on Hertfordshire in the first round of the 50-over competition on Sunday - and are keen to make up for a missed opportunity in 2018.
Staffordshire were in the driving seat in last year’s opening game against Shropshire after posting 265-8 and then reducing their Himley visitors to 129-6.
However, Robbie Clarke’s big-hitting 107 not out turned the tables to earn Shropshire a one-wicket win and end Staffs’ one-day bid before it had barely started.
For a county which has prided itself on stellar limited-overs performances in the past, it was a tough defeat to take for Ali.
But the Staffs skipper says they can keep that pain close as they attempt to make an impact this time around.
“It was hugely disappointing last year. Robbie Clarke played really well, but we’ve got to remember that we’re still a good one-day side and in the past few years have had a decent record,” said the West Bromwich Dartmouth batsman.
“It just goes to show that you can dominate three-quarters of a game and all of a sudden the opposition put together a partnership and gain some momentum.
“It’s a lesson we’ve got to learn. We can’t relax until the job is done.
“The opposition will battle and you have guys coming in at seven or eight who can turn a match, so we have to be on it.
“It’s going to be tough at Hertfordshire. All sides are strong for the one-dayers, so it doesn’t really matter who we were drawn against.”
The winners of Sunday’s tie will make the trip to Herefordshire next month.
And in their bid to advance to the second round, Staffordshire have dished out some debuts.
Little Stoke wicketkeeper/batsman Spencer Byatt and seamer James Cox - who plays for Wollaton in the Nottinghamshire ECB Premier League - will both make their county bows.
Checkley spinner Richard Williams also makes his first appearance in the Knockout Trophy after impressing in last year’s Twenty20 Cup games.
“It’s good to have some changes. Rich Williams bowled really nicely in the T20s last year,” added Ali.
“He’s a local lad and I’ve been impressed by how he’s played, so why not give him a go?
“I’ve heard a lot of good things about Spencer as well, while James Cox is perfect for us. I watched him bowl in the warm-up game against Shropshire and was impressed.
“He can cause a few problems. If you’re not used to that type of bowler, it can take an over or two to get to grips with him.”
Brinder Phagura and Dan Richardson make up the rest of the frontline bowling attack - one which is relatively raw.
However, Ali, aged 36, has no issues with putting his faith in the young unit.
“I’m not concerned about the bowling attack, in fact I’m excited by it,” he explained. “One-day games change quickly with people smashing it, and I think having a young side that helps.
Brinder Phagura will lead the Staffordshire attack against Hertfordshire.
“Brinder is still young, but has experience and has led the attack in the three-dayers, so we’re looking for him to do the same in the one-day format.
“In the Birmingham League we play 50-over matches with free hits and power plays and the guys who have featured in that, like Brinder, have improved massively.”
The bowling line-up might be different, but there is a familiar feel about the batting department.
It includes former Worcestershire player Zen Malik - who made his Championship debut last summer - alongside regulars Ali, Sam Kelsall, Peter Wilshaw, Michael Hill and Tim Maxfield.
“Zen will admit that last year he had a lot of starts and didn’t go on. He’s obviously now left the county scene and I’m keen for him to get some match-winning scores and big tons,” said Ali.
“He’s at West Bromwich Dartmouth with me this year and I am constantly talking to him about going big.
“It’s a huge opportunity, not just for himself, but for the team as well.”
Hertfordshire are skippered by Reece Hussain, who is the nephew of former England captain Nasser Hussain.
They also include ex-Middlesex spinner Ravi Patel in their side.
Hertfordshire (from): Reece Hussain (cpt, Bishop’s Stortford), Steven Gale (Potters Bar), Jamie Southgate (Welwyn Garden City), Harry Ellison (Clevedon), Tanveer Sikander (Blackheath), Dominic Chatfield (Bishop’s Stortford), Alex Axon (Harpenden), Patrick Scott (Potters Bar), Ravi Patel (Harrow St Marys), Jigar Mehta (Potters Bar), Ben Waring (Chelmsford), Luke Chapman (Potters Bar).
Staffordshire (from): Kadeer Ali (cpt, West Bromwich Dartmouth), Sam Kelsall (Moddershall & Oulton), Zen Malik (West Bromwich Dartmouth), Shoaib Akhtar (Walsall), Peter Wilshaw (Meakins), Michael Hill (Meakins), Tim Maxfield (Brewood), Spencer Byatt (Little Stoke), Richard Williams (Checkley), James Cox (Wollaton), Brinder Phagura (Moseley), Dan Richardson (Leek).