Bottom, second bottom and third bottom. The placings of Northants in the three county cricket tables tells the story shortly and sharply. Even for a so-called ‘smaller county’, this was a poor year for the East Midlands side.
Having been to three of the last five finals days, and getting to the final on all three occasions, there was understandably great expectations for another T20 run for the Steelbacks this year, even into a third season without 2013 final hero David Willey.
The first five matches of the T20 campaign saw Northants losses, despite frequently putting what seemed decent scores on the board. Most embarrassing for the bowlers was the match at Edgbaston on 20th July. Richard Levi’s 95* and 61 from 35 balls from Josh Cobb set an imposing 231-5.
Surely there’s no way any team could lose from this position, but Ian Bell cashed in on the generous bowling and Northants were lucky to escape with a tie in the end. Six games in, Northants the only side in this year’s competition yet to win and in the format they are most renowned for.
The signing of pace bowler Ben Cotton should take some of the burden off Ben Sanderson’s shoulders after the loss of Richard Gleeson to Lancashire, but they could still do with signing another decent bowler if they can’t fast-track a promising youngster into the first team squad.
Having made his Northants Blast debut this summer, off-spinner Tom Sole should help the depleted Steelbacks bowling resources-recently penning a two-year contract (though he will likely still miss county matches for international duty.) And batsman Charlie Thurston being given a one-year summer contract should bolster the batting – he made his debut in all three formats for the side this summer.
The T20 format will likely stay their main priority, but even conservative fans would look for improvements to at least a mid-table Division Two and Royal London One-Day Cup finish next campaign.
SSCC: 9th, Division Two
T20 Blast: Group Stage – 9th, North Group
RLODC: Group Stage – 7th, North Group
SSCC: Alex Wakeley, 600 runs
T20 Blast: Josh Cobb, 448 runs
RLODC: Alex Wakley, 280 runs
SSCC: Ben Sanderson, 60 wickets
T20 Blast: Nathan Buck, 11 wickets
RLODC: Graeme White, 8 wickets
Player of the Season
Ben Sanderson had another excellent season as he continues to resurrect his career, 60 wickets at 16 in the Championship, and steps up to lead the attack with Gleeson and Kleinveldt only playing four and three games respectively.
Breakthrough player, Ricardo Vasconcelos, young South African keeper/batsman, got his chance when Rossington got injured and performed as well as anyone at the top of the order, including a fine 140 against Middlesex. Only just topped by Alex Wakeley as leading SCCC run-scorer for the county. Honourable mention to Ben Curran, his 80 odd in final game run chase a sign of his potential having got his chance after Duckett’s departure.
Could have done better
Could’ve done better is a tough one as lots of players had poor seasons without a standout shocker. Probably would say Rory Kleinveldt though, he’s been a great servant over the years, an old school overseas playing all season/formats, but it seemed like one season too many, he only played three Championship games in the end. And with arguably his favourite colour of ball to bowl with, the white ball, he seems to have lost the control he once had with it.
Need to work on
Plenty! Scoring more runs in all formats (though particularly the four-day game) and taking more white ball wickets would help significantly, arguably Ben Sanderson’s 60 Championship wickets the only plus point.
Find a way to cope with the loss of Duckett, Gleeson, Kleinveldt and Crook. The likes of Vasconcelos, Cotton and Curran showed glimpses of promise for the Steelbacks late this summer, but this will likely be a tricky transition period for the club.