Northamptonshire defied the naysayers once again last night to lift the T20 title for the second time in four years. Alex Wakely said he couldn’t be prouder of his dressing room, after they beat Nottinghamshire and Durham to lift the trophy at Edgbaston.
Josh Cobb’s 80 fired Northants to a four wicket victory over Durham, whilst Ben Duckett hit 84 in the semi-final win as Notts were dispatched by eight runs.
Northants were in early trouble in both games, slipping to 15-3 in the semi-final and then 9-3 in the run chase, but Wakely shared stand of 123 and 120 in both games with Duckett and Cobb.
A product of the Northants academy, Wakely joins a select bunch of captains to have lifted the t20 trophy twice, only Hampshire and Leicestershire having done so before. After reaching last year’s final, they had always believed they could go one better.
“I couldn’t be more proud of this team. I love this club to bits. I’ve been here since I was 13 and it just gets better and better,” he said. “Within this dressing room there was always belief we could win this tournament. A lot of hard work went into it. We play together as a team and we enjoy each other’s success.
“First time Ben was just playing phenomenal and we just let him go; this time Cobby took the lead role and dictated what to do and got me through.
“I think the fact we’ve not won the games easily, we’ve proven we’re a good T20 side.
“No one really gave us a chance at the start and we’ve either won it with the bat or the ball throughout the competition, and I genuinely believe this group of players is as talented as there is.
“There’s a lot of off field stuff written about us that we have to ignore. People always jump on our backs, they talk about us being “units”, or overweight, but we just ignore it.
“We look for players who fitted into our culture, our dressing room, and you see it: we play with a smile on our face. It’s pretty simple. If you’ve got a happy changing room you perform.”
The county have only used 16 players in the entire competition, and Wakely said the continuity of a settled team was crucial to their success. This is in stark comparison to Nottinghamshire and Yorkshire, who both brought back England players at the expense of those who had played throughout the competition and then crashed out at the semi-final stage.
“You look around the counties and they try and sign superstars,” he said. “I think continuity in the dressing room helps. I’d rather have Seekkuge Prasanna for the whole year than someone on big money for four or five games.
“A lot of the reason we’ve been successful over the three years is that we’ve played pretty much the same team throughout the competition. You look at Notts, they chopped and changed their side and it doesn’t always work.
“Greg Smith, for instance. For Notts he was one of the best players all year and then he’s not playing [at finals day]. I don’t agree with it, but it is the way it is.
“For us, we don’t have that problem and that’s a massive reason why we’ve come out here and done what we’ve done.”
Cobb’s “man of the match” performance came a day after he signed a new three year contract at Wantage Road. He said he has loved his cricket since making the move from Leicestershire, and praised the way someone in the Northants side always steps up, as they have throughout the competition.
Cobb has been struggling all season with a knee injury, which will require an operation, but he said lifting the trophy made all his struggles worthwhile.
“Great day! It’s one of the best in the calendar. To win in the final is the most important, but to contribute makes it even sweeter.” He said.
“We were in a little bit of trouble, when Ben Duckett gets out for nothing these days it’s a bit of a shock as he’s playing beautifully. But this is what’s happened all year: someone has stood up in every game and that’s the sign of a special side.
“I’ve come here and really enjoyed my cricket, playing with a great bunch of lads. The team spirit is exceptional. I’ve been here two years and played in three out of four possible quarter finals, and been to two finals in two years.
“This is the last day you’ll see me on the field this season. I have been struggling with my knee but I always believed we’d be playing in a final and that’s the reason I’ve taken the painkillers and battled through it. It makes it all worthwhile to be here right now.”