For Northants the 2022 season feels like it has been a long time coming. Having been promoted to Division One of the County Championship in 2019, the changed structure over the last two years has seen the county unable to take their seat at the top table, and it will be an exciting season for the club and its fans as they take on the Division One challenge this year.
Last season’s performances didn’t augur well though. Mid-table mediocrity in red ball cricket was one thing, but bottom of the North group in the T20 blast and second bottom in Group B of the Royal London One Day Cup, were poor results which everyone at the County Ground will want to see dramatic improvement on.
The changes in captaincy are perhaps an effort to facilitate this. Ricardo Vasconcelos takes over from Adam Rossington in red ball cricket and Josh Cobb takes over from Vasconcelos in the Royal London One Day Cup to build on his T20 captaincy. Northamptonshire will hope that this England style red ball and white ball split brings an upturn in results.
From an outsider’s perspective Northants look like a team that many of County giants in Division One would fancy beating. But the line-up of quality county professionals like Josh Cobb, Rob Keogh, Ben Sanderson, Adam Rossington, Gareth Berg et al suggests that while you might fancy your chances, you know you’re going to be in for a serious fight. If their overseas signings come good, you would imagine they will have given some of the more established names a bloody nose by the time the season is out.
There are good news stories around the County Ground as well. None more so than the continued resurgence and subsequent two year contract earned by Simon Kerrigan. Quality spin bowling is worth its weight in gold in county cricket, (just ask Essex), and Kerrigan, who went from England debutant alongside Chris Woakes one day, to obscurity the next has come good at Northants. Any neutral supporter will be willing the left arm spinner to improve on his 29 wickets First Class wickets last season.
Ins: Will Young (Overseas), Matt Kelly (Overseas – early season), Jimmy Neesham (T20 Blast)
Outs: Richard Levi (Released)
It’s hard to look past Ricardo Vasconcelos when looking at the headliners here. Consistent run scoring is what will keep Northants in County Championship Division One, and Vasconcelos was last season’s top run scorer and will need to contribute heavily again this year if they are to do so. The Johannesburg born Wicket Keeper Batter, played in every single match for Northants across all formats and having been named Captain in the County Championship, how the 24-year-old goes in all his roles will have a significant bearing on how the club fares overall.
Player to watch:
The name Sales will get many a Northamptonshire fan purring. David Sales was an extraordinary player for Northants who scored over 14,000 first class runs and, on his day, scored runs with exquisite stroke play and brutal power. The Sales name is back in Northants colours and after a winter away at the Under 19 World Cup, James Sales’ all round talents will be keenly watched. After featuring at the back end of the season last year, you’d imagine Sales’ aspirations this year will be looking to establish himself in the first team this coming season, but if Son can emulate father, it should be worth keeping an eye on.
Will Young, the highly rated Kiwi Test opener joins for the season, and should be a welcome addition to strengthen a batting line up which boasts solid performers without consistently heavy scorers. While his test average of 31 over 9 tests isn’t stellar, a First Class average of 41 at the top of the order is highly creditable, and if repeated would go a long way to stabilising Northants in Division One.
Exciting Western Australian quick Matt Kelly joins for the first part of the season. He’ll be with the squad for five County Championship games up until the end of May and will be his first red ball contract outside of WA. 105 wickets in 35 Sheffield Shield matches suggests Kelly can be a strong contributor, especially in early season English conditions.
Rounding out an Antipodean triumvirate, Jimmy Neesham is an exciting addition for the entirety of the T20 Blast campaign. His batting heroics against England took New Zealand to T20 World Cup final, and his bowling will also be very handy in the Blast.
How will they fare
If the bookies are to be believed Northants are in for a tough season. While they struggled in white ball cricket last year you feel that they have to improve on that this year, and the Neesham signing looks like good business, both as a leader and all round cricketer. Staying in Division One would represent good success in the County Championship, but you’d imagine the bottom half of the table is realistic. With the Royal London One Day Cup squads a bit of an unknown quantity, there’s an opportunity for a county to commit to the competition and get a result, and perhaps the optimistic Northants fan will see that as an opportunity to target honours.
Thursday 7th April vs. Gloucestershire – Upton Steel County Ground
LV County Championship – 25/1
Natwest T20 Blast – 33/1
Royal London One Day Cup – 33/1