Staffordshire v Herefordshire: Kadeer Ali targets Knockout silverware

By Jamie SmithBBC Sport
Staffordshire skipper Kadeer Ali
Staffs skipper Kadeer Ali spent 10 years in first-class cricket with Worcestershire and Gloucestershire
Unicorns Knockout Trophy, Sir John Paul Getty's Ground, Wormsley
Staffordshire v Herefordshire (50-over match, 11:00 BST)
Coverage: Full match commentary with Trevor Owens and Chris Williams on BBC Hereford & Worcester (online only, BBC Sport website)

Minor Counties kings Staffordshire are hoping for more silverware when they take on Herefordshire in the Knockout Trophy final at Wormsley on Wednesday.

It is only two years since Staffs won the most recent of their record 11 Minor Counties Championship titles.

But they have not triumphed in the one-day format since 1993, when they won for the second time in three seasons.

The closest they have come since then was in the 2009 final, when they suffered a heavy defeat by Norfolk.

However, last month's 50-run semi-final victory over Dorset at Bournemouth gave them an opportunity to end that long wait.

Staffordshire captain Kadeer Ali, elder brother of England all-rounder Moeen, believes reaching the final after starting out in a tough group is "absolutely amazing."

The 33-year-old, who spent 10 years in the first-class game with Worcestershire and Gloucestershire, told BBC Radio Stoke: "Obviously there will be some nerves. We just need to take that out of our heads and take it as another game.

"The guys can't wait. It will be a really proud moment - one of the highlights of my career."

Archer at heart of Staffordshire's illustrious past

One man who knows what it is like to lift the trophy is former Staffordshire captain Nick Archer, now the county secretary.

Archer led Staffs to their two previous Knockout Trophy victories in 1991 and 1993, when it was known as the Holt Cup. And he admits that, having lost the previous year's final to Devon, who they had beaten in 1991, the overriding feeling was one of relief when they beat Wiltshire two years later.

"We were a fairly formidable side then," said Archer. "But I think the people involved with the club would say we've underachieved in this competition. We're pleased to get to the final but the full focus is now on trying to win.

"I imagine it will be very close. But we've got a very powerful batting line-up and we've got to achieve our potential. Win the toss, bat first and build up a score that we can defend. The biggest thing to do is go out there, express ourselves and not be afraid of failing."

Bowlers come good in semi-final

Staffordshire have a 100% record in this year's competition, having taken maximum points from their group, including a six-wicket win against final opponents Herefordshire.

In the semi-final against Dorset, they capitulated from a commanding 115-1 to 172 all out, but produced a superb performance in the field to bowl out Dorset for just 122 in 44 overs, with off-spinner Alex Thomson taking 4-24.

"We're fairly confident," said Kadeer. "But it's a one-off game and it's all going to be down to who deals with the pressure on the day. Both sides are very talented. It's important that we go into the game nice and relaxed. The mind-set has to be right."

Sir John Paul Gertty Ground, Wormsley
This will be the fifth successive year that the final has been held at the late Sir John Paul Getty's ground at Wormsley, nestling in the Chiltern Hills in Buckinghamshire

Staffordshire's record

Since the competition's inception in 1983, Staffordshire have won twice, From 1991 to 1993, they reached the Lord's final three years in a row.

They beat Devon by four wickets in 1991. Devon then reversed that to win by four wickets a year later. Staffs then beat Wiltshire by 69 runs in 1993.

They have since reached the final once more, in 2009, when they lost by 104 runs to Norfolk at Chester-le-Street.

Staffs remain the most prolific winners of the Minor Counties Championship which they have won 11 times in its 121-year history, most recently in 2014.

Herefordshire's record

Herefordshire first reached the final in 1995, when they lost by two wickets to Cambridgeshire at Lord's.

They then won it for the first time, at Lord's, when they beat Cheshire by 42 runs in 2000.

Norfolk and Devon hold the record for the most Knockout final wins with five each, but victory for Staffs would take them level into third place with Cheshire and Berkshire on three.

Herefordshire have never won the Minor Counties Championship outright, although they shared the title with Norfolk in 2002.

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