When Glamorgan visited Wantage Road at the end of last summer, they and Northamptonshire were teams heading in different direction.
Northants, fresh off the back of winning the T20 Blast, took that confidence into the Championship, and the huge 318-run win was one of three successive victories to sign off the four-day campaign. Glamorgan’s season tailed off after their T20 quarter final defeat – four losses in the last five left only Derbyshire below them in the final reckoning.
However, a new season brings a fresh start, and Glamorgan will at least be spared the raging turn that saw Rob Keogh and Graeme White share all 20 wickets on an old fashioned Wantage Road Bunsen.
For Northants, until their belated run of form, the Championship had been somewhat of a struggle compared to their red-hot white ball campaign. Head Coach David Ripley admitted his side were sometimes underprepared as they, understandably, put their focus on white-ball cricket.
The change of format should benefit them this year though, and the opening block of three games, the visit of Glamorgan followed by trips to Derbyshire and Leicestershire, providing an opportunity for Ripley’s men to make a strong start that could be the springboard for a surprising promotion challenge.
For Glamorgan, the pressure will be on a young batting line-up to make a positive start after a disappointing 2016, while captain Jacques Rudolph will want some early runs to avoid awkward question starting to form over his role at the top.
The late signings of Marchant de Lange and Harry Podmore, the latter on loan from Middlesex for the opening month, provide a boost to the bowling attack, but perhaps that could also be unsettling so close to the start.
Ben Duckett was the star of 2016, not just for Northants, but in County Cricket overall. But he returns from a mixed winter with questions over whether he can continue to churn out the runs like he has over the past season and half. Despite much of that success in the Championship coming as an opener, Duckett is expected to move to number four, a position that should suit his natural strokeplay.
Glamorgan captain Jacques Rudolph endured a difficult campaign with the bat, making only 659 runs in 15 games, at an average under 25. One of the few experienced heads in an otherwise useful batting order, Rudolph will need to lead from the front, and will be hoping for a strong start to the campaign.
Northants have been hit by a pair of injuries ahead of the opening game, with Muhammed Azharullah out for 4-6 weeks, while Rob Keogh misses the opener after being hit on the foot in a warm up game. Richard Gleeson isn’t yet up to full fitness following winter knee surgery.
South African duo Richard Levi and Rory Kleinveldt have arrived and are included in the squad, while there are likely to be competitive debuts for Nathan Buck and Max Holden.
Northants squad: Nathan Buck, Josh Cobb, Ben Duckett, Max Holden, Rory Kleinveldt, Richard Levi, Rob Newton, Adam Rossington, Alex Wakely (c), Graeme White, Ben Sanderson.
Glamorgan will have Harry Podmore available after he resigned for the club on Thursday, on an initial one-month loan deal from Middlesex, having spent last summer on loan at the Swalec. Marchant de Lange is also set to make his debut for the county.
Glamorgan squad: Jacques Rudolph (c), Lukas Carey, Kiran Carlson, Chris Cooke, Marchant De Lange, Aneurin Donald, Colin Ingram, David Lloyd, Craig Meschede, Owen Morgan, Harry Podmore, Andrew Salter, Nick Selman.
Weather and Conditions
After last seasons incredible wet start, that saw the last two and a half days of the opening Championship game at Wantage Road washed out, the weather looks unusually settled for this early April clash. Little rain is anticipated throughout, with temperatures hitting a high of 21 degrees on Sunday, before dipping to a rather more chilly 12 on Monday.
The Wantage Road groundsmen have struggled in the past couple of years to find a balance between flat and too lively pitches, often ending up with the former. This is particularly true on the right hand (as viewed from the pavilion) end of the square, where this weeks’ wicket is located, the game against Loughborough MCCU producing scores of 435-6, 553 and 185-0.
Date: 7th – 10th April 2017
Venue: Wantage Road, Northampton
Odds: Northants 8/11, Glamorgan 11/10