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Report from Allan Smith - 230719

Staffs recorded a second championship victory in succession to move to the top of the Eastern Division. As in the previous game, Staffordshire didn’t wrap up the victory until the final hour of play on the third day. However the win looked like being much easier after they amassed a daunting 485 for 9 in their first innings against Hertfordshire.


However a combination of resilient batting by the home team and a series of dropped catches from the Staffs fielders allowed Herts to keep the first innings deficit to just 99.


When Staffs were dismissed for 205 when they batted a second time it meant the home side were left a victory target of 305 and at one time they looked like pulling of an improbable victory as they reached 104 for2 shortly after lunch, before a dramatic afternoon session saw Staffs claim 6 wickets and put them in charge of the game once more. 


When the ninth wicket fell on 159 the win seemed a formality but the game took a further twist as the last pair put on 70 to raise home hopes until Tim Maxfield struck the decisive blow in the 4th over of the final 17 to be bowled and give Staffs a 75 run victory and 23 points, which sees them head the table by nine points at the halfway stage of the competition.


Staffs first innings total of 485.9 was the highest ever by the county against their opponents, and included three centurions which is believed to be the first time that has occurred.  Zen Malik, a late replacement for the unavailable Sam Kelsall, hit an impressive 164 off 215 balls and he was joined in reaching three figure by Michael Hill, who scored exactly 100 to make in tons in successive games, before Peter Wilshaw hit his 14th hundred for Staffs in championship cricket as he blasted 13 sixes in his 84 ball 122. In all Staffs batsmen hit 29 boundaries and an incredible 25 sixes in the innings. By the close of play on the first day Staffs had claimed two Herts wicket at a cost of 63.


Having missed a chance for a third wicket late on the first day, Staffs fielders continued to fritter opportunities presented to them to push home their advantage, and this allowed Hamza Ahmed to record a first century for Herts before being run out for 101. Some lusty late hitting from Jamie Southgate with 79 from 83 balls and unbeaten 60 off 50 deliveries from Andre Neal enabled Hertfordshire to post a very respectable 386.7 from their permitted 90 overs, giving Staffs a 99 run first innings lead.


James Cox and Paul Byrne picked up two wickets each with Dan Richardson and Matthew Morris one each.


Batting a second time some rather injudicious shots from a few of the Staffs batsmen saw them finish the second day on 163.5 a lead of 262. Opener Kadeer Ali ended the day on 63 not out while Peter Wilshaw struck a further three sixes in his 50 from 40 balls before becoming another to throw his wicket away, and leave the game in the balance going into the final day.


Kadeer Ali added just five to his overnight score as Staffs lost their last five wickets for a further 42 runs to see them bowled out for 205, leaving Herts to score 305 if they were to turn the game on its head after seeing Staffs take an early grip on the match. However the dismissal of Ravi Patel for 52 with the total on 104.2 saw the Staffs bowlers strangle the home side’s middle order and, despite the late heroics, eventually they achieved the victory. 


Left arm spinner Paul Byrne, despite a badly swollen and bruised hand sustained when he failed to cling on to one of the numerous catching opportunities offered by the home batsmen in their first innings, proved once more to be Staffs third day bowling hero as he grabbed 5/64 and in partnership with Tim Maxfield, who finished with two wickets, including the crucial last one, brought about the downfall of the home sides victory hopes. 


Staffs 1st innings 485.9ic. 2nd innings 205ao.
Herts 1st innings 386.7ic 2nd innings 229ao. 
Staffs win by 75 runs. Points Staffs 23 Herts 8


Staffs are next in action at Checkley Cricket Club when they entertain Cumberland in a three day championship fixture starting on Sunday 4th August. Play starts at 11am on each day and admission is free.

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