Northamptonshire take on Derbyshire this week, and the hosts will be looking to bounce back from a crushing defeat to Essex. The visitors arrive in Northampton on the back of two successive draws.
Northants enjoyed a positive start at home to Sussex in the opening week, as Ben Duckett’s 282* dominated their innings, only for the weather to wash out the second half of the game. A reality check was provided at Chelmsford last week, however, in a humbling innings defeat.
With Olly Stone absent, the bowling attack looked ineffective against an experienced Essex batting line out whilst the batting crumbled to 119 all out. The second innings was a slightly better attempt, but they couldn’t force Essex to bat again.
The performance bore a worrying resemblance to the Northants of last season, with their habit of batting collapses, and with a quartet of first teamers still injured the hosts threadbare squad is already being exposed.
For Derbyshire, their season so far has seen two draws where the bat, and the weather has dominated. Luke Fletcher is on loan from Nottinghamshire to bolster the pace attack, but the early signs are the sizable hole left by Mark Footitt has yet to be filled.
However they do have a top order in form, with Wayne Madsen, Chesey Hughes and Hamish Rutherford all in the runs so far. Aided by the return of captain Billy Godleman, the visitors to Wantage Road may fancy their chances of exposing a Northants side bound to be low on confidence following last week.
In the absence of Olly Stone and Steven Crook, Northants will need a big performance from Rory Kleinveldt as he may very well have to carry the rest of the pace bowling attack. The South African was economical, if unthreatening, to return figures of 1-57 from 29 overs in his first outing of the season but if Northants are to take 20 wickets, they will need him to add potency to the frugality.
Freed from the pressures of captaincy Wayne Madsen has relished his return to the ranks at the start of this season, with scores of 150 and 27 not out against Gloucestershire, followed up with 97 against Glamorgan last weekend. A crucial cog in the Derbyshire middle order, his ability to either be patient or attack given the situation, is useful.
Northants’ already small squad has been stretched even further with a quartet of first team players missing the start of the season, and all four are set to miss out once again. Olly Stone, Rob Keogh, Steven Crook and Rob Newton will all be on the sidelines, whilst Monty Panesar is not yet fit, meaning Northants are likely to stick with the 11 that featured in the opening two games. Spinner Graeme White will be the addition in a 12 man squad.
Derbyshire are boosted by the return of new captain Billy Godleman, who will lead the side for the first time having missed the opening two matches with a broken thumb. He is set to replace Ben Slater at the top of the order, whilst Shiv Thakor is added to the side that drew with Glamorgan.
Northants squad: Alex Wakely (c), Adam Rossington (wk), Ben Duckett, Jake Libby, Josh Cobb, Richard Levi, David Murphy, Rory Kleinveldt, Richard Gleeson, Ben Sanderson, Muhammed Azharullah, Graeme White
Derbyshire squad: Billy Godleman (c), Tom Poynton (wk), Chesney Hughes, Hamish Rutherford, Wayne Madsen, Neil Broom, Wes Durston, Shiv Thakor, Matthew Critchley, Tony Palladino, Luke Fletcher, Andy Carter
Weather and conditions
After a week of sleet and even snow showers in Northampton, the weather is set to take a slight turn for the better as May arrives. Temperatures are set to be in the early teens, and should remain fairly dry, with showers only forecast on Monday afternoon. The opening game saw a fairly flat Wantage Road pitch, something likely to be a theme this season.
Date: Sunday 1st May-Wednesday 4th May
Ground: Wantage Road, Northampton
Umpires: Russell Evans, Martin Saggers
Odds (SkyBet): Northants 4/5, Derbyshire 1/1