‘We can have no excuses for Cumbria loss, but I’m confident we will bounce back’


Paul Byrne admits Staffordshire let themselves down in their NCCA Knockout Trophy opener… but is confident they can get back on track this weekend.

Staffs were beaten by two wickets by Cumbria at Cockermouth as their return from a 21-month absence from competitive cricket ended in disappointment.

Staffordshire fell below their usual standards in all departments and despite a late rally with the ball, Cumbria overhauled the visitors’ 193 all out.

“There are areas we need to improve,” admitted left-arm spinner Byrne, who picked up 1-29 from his 10 overs in the Lake District.

“We’ve not played competitively for more than a year and we also missed the first round of games when other sides were able to get together.

“But realistically, we can have no excuses. We had plenty of experience in the side and should have been the stronger team.

“We were a bit behind with both bat and ball. I’d say we might have been 20 or 30 light with the bat and we never got in front of the match until the end.

“It was a very disappointed dressing room. You want to win that first game, but in limited-overs cricket, those sort of things can happen.”

Cumbria’s victory left them top of Group One with twin wins, while Staffordshire will attempt to chalk up their maiden success against Northumberland at Checkley on Sunday (11am).

Byrne, who has played 51 Championship and 18 one-dayers for Staffs, concedes that Sunday’s encounter takes on added significance against a side who have lost both of their games to date against Shropshire and Cheshire.

“Yes, it does increase the pressure a bit after losing to Cumbria,” admitted Byrne.

“If you lose the first match in a four-game group format, then of course it’s going to up the pressure for the next one.

“But I’m confident we have got the side to go out there and win the game.



Paul Byrne took 1-29 in Staffordshire's NCCA Knockout Trophy defeat by Cumbria at Cockermouth.
Paul Byrne took 1-29 in Staffordshire’s NCCA Knockout Trophy defeat by Cumbria at Cockermouth.

“You have to take each match individually and not worry about the bigger picture.

“If we can execute our skills, hopefully we will have enough to win the game.

“Northumberland have some dangerous players, though. They have proved they can be a good side home and away.

“It’s a couple of years since we last played them, so we’re not quite sure what to expect because they will have some new faces.”

Byrne has been an integral part of the Staffs side in recent times and was part of the side which won the 2014 Championship title and also claimed the 2019 Eastern division crown.

They could easily have added the one-day trophy to their 2019 success story, but were beaten in the semi-finals in the bowl-out by Cumbria.

Byrne, aged 36, says that is new box he’d love to tick.

“We had a strong side out in 2019 and it was a great opportunity to win the one-dayers,” he explained.

“Then last year the games were called off because of the coronavirus pandemic and it has been a strange time for everyone.

“We’ve got a new squad now, however, and a new captain in Alex Mellor, so they are exciting times.

“I think what the year off did really hammer home was how much I love playing for Staffs and we’re all glad to be back.”

While Byrne is relishing the challenge on the National Counties Cricket Association circuit this summer, he’s also getting to grips with a new test at club level.

Byrne ended his spell with Birmingham League side Walsall in the winter to move to North Staffs and South Cheshire League Premier Division side Meakins.

He’s had helped Meakins to make a handy start to their league summer – and is enjoying playing his Saturday cricket in the north of the county.

“I took some time off to recover last year and then had a really good pre-season,” he said.

“I’ve recovered both mentally and physically and feel as though I;’m bowling as well as ever.

“The move to a new league has also reinvigorated me. You get fresh motivation from moving to a new league and it’s been really enjoyable at Meakins.

“It’s a very good standard and every side has quality players in it.

“Meakins are a good bunch of guys and I’m loving my time there.”

Staffordshire have made two changes to their side for the weekend encounter.

Experienced batsman Peter Wilshaw and fellow top-order exponent Matthew Morris have been left out of the side.

Porthill Park’s Louis Allison comes in, along with left-arm spinner Toby Bulcock, who makes his Staffs debut – 18 months after signing from Cumbria.

Visitors Northumberland have made six changes after suffering back-to-back defeats.

All-rounder Sean Tindale and former Durham wicketkeeper-batsman Michael Richardson are among the absentees as they travel south.

Staffordshire: Alex Mellor (cpt, Leek), Zen Malik (Burslem), Louis Allison (Porthill Park), Michael Hill (Meakins), Jack Redman (Audley), Tim Maxfield (Brewood), Rob Hemmings (Audley), Ben Cotton (Porthill Park), Paul Byrne (Meakins), Toby Bulcock (Accrington), Alex Coates (Longton).
Northumberland: Tom Cant (cpt, Tynedale), Alasdair Appleby (Felling), Jack Jessop (Ashington), Michael Allan (Sunderland), John Oswell (Burnopfield), Matthew Brown (Tynemouth), Matthew Oswell (Burnopfield), Ollie McGee (South Northumberland), Matthew Scott (Tynedale), Callum Fletcher (South Northumberland), Amaan Ul Haq (Chester Le Street).





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