Northants fast bowler Olly Stone gave Deep Extra Cover his thoughts after the first couple of games, as his side look to get back to Division One. (Column written before games v Lancashire and Derbyshire)
So finally the season has started. It felt like a long winter of hard slog and training and you know it will all be worth it but to actually reach the ‘finish line’ and get the season underway is a good feeling.
For the third year in a row, we managed to get away to Barbados as part of our preseason preparations. These trips are without a doubt so worthwhile. It means we can get some invaluable match practice in weather conditions that won’t let us down away from the distractions of normal life.
It’s often the first opportunity we get to really gel as a team which is also crucial – the cricket season is long and we spend a lot of time together. I can’t imagine how a team would come together on the pitch if they didn’t get on away from the field.
Once the tour was complete, press day done, we began our campaign. Our first test was to face a tough looking Gloucestershire side. As a surprisingly warm day arrived on the 12th of April, the lads got stuck in to give us a good total to go out and defend with good contributions from Adam Rossington and David Willey. After a tough few hours in the field the wickets started to fall and Gloucestershire were finally bowled out with an hour left in play trailing by 40. It was then time for a few crucial scores from Rob Keogh, Rory Kleinveldt and David Willey, who scored his maiden first class century before the declaration came on 416, leaving Gloucestershire 440 runs to win the game.
On a well poised last day, we arrived positive and upbeat ready to try and finish the job off. However that was not the case as it turned out to be a real struggle with the batting side dominating with only 2 wickets to fall in the whole day, finishing the match on 267-2.
We then moved onto Grace Road to face Leicestershire. This was always going to be an interesting fixture. After a strong first match there was expectations from us plus Leicestershire were desperate for a win after such a long drought. It was a tough first day but we dug deep and day two gave us the chance to demonstrate excellent bowling and impressive fielding; a great foundation for a sweet victory two days later.
There wasn’t a huge amount of celebration – we were all pretty tired and none of us wanted get carried away just yet – Lancashire at home were the next challenge….