Despite a convincing 150 run victory over Northumberland in their final Eastern Division Unicorns Championship fixture of the season, it was a bitter sweet result for Staffs as the win saw them finish the campaign in third place in the table after title rivals Lincolnshire defeated Cumberland late on the final day to retain the title, while Suffolk came out on top in their game against Cambridgeshire to take second spot.

Champions Lincolnshire now go on to play Western Division champions Berkshire in the play-off final at Banbury Cricket Club, starting on Sunday September 16th in a repeat of last year’s title decider.

With the leading three teams all having won four games, drawing one and each sustaining one defeat, Lincolnshire came out on top with 107 points ahead off Suffolk on 105 with Staffs a further two points adrift and Buckinghamshire finishing in fourth place with 99 points. Looking back, the title seemed to be in Staffs grasp as they won their opening three games to open up a 16 point advantage, but a disappointing performance in their drawn game away to Norfolk was followed up by an even more devastating result as they crashed to a shock defeat at the hands of Buckinghamshire at Longton to go into the final game in third place in the division. Despite doing what was necessary themselves in taking 22 points from their rain affected win over Northumberland, the required assistance from other counties in denying both Lincolnshire and Suffolk their victories wasn’t forthcoming and Staffs can only look back on a season of what might have been. 

Winning the toss and batting first, Staffs grasped the first crucial four batting points after declaring on 326-8 after 78 overs led by a fifth century for the county by Whitmore’s Michael Hill. The left hander struck 12 boundaries and two sixes in his 138 ball 103 and shared a third wicket partnership of 110 with Alex Mellor of Walsall who contributed 55.

With rain curtailing play significantly on the second day, Staffs were restricted to just two bowling bonus points as the home side declared on 193-5 at the start of the final day to try and enable a positive outcome of the game. Opener Tom Hewison hit a fine unbeaten 101 for the home side with Dan Richardson and Brinder Phagura both picked up two wickets.

Chasing quick runs to enable a target to be set for Northumberland to chase, Staffs rattled up 157-5 from 31.3 overs before declaring for a second time in the match, to set the home side a victory target of 291 from a minimum of 75 overs. Sam Kelsall hit a breezy 42 with Alex Mellor contributing 30 and Rob Yates an unbeaten 28 before Kadeer Ali called a halt to the innings.

Despite another good knock from Hewison, who scored 64, the home batsman never looked like reaching this target as Brinder Phagura claimed 4-30 and Paul Byrne 4-47 to dismiss the home side for just 140 to clinch the win but leave Staffs feeling a major sense of disappointment as they left the field knowing their efforts had been in vain.

Match Summary

Staffs 326-8 declared & 157-5 declared.

Northumberland 193-5 declared & 140 all out.

Staffs win by 150 runs.

Report by Allan Smith (image courtesy The Sentinel)

Posted on Wednesday 5th September 2018, in Latest News