Neither team has registered a win so far this season and accordingly occupy two of the bottom three slots in Division One. In the last round they both came away with draws. Northamptonshire took part in a run fest in Birmingham, where only ten wickets fell in the four days and three of their batters registered centuries. Meanwhile Kent were asked to follow on, having finished 441 runs behind Surrey after their first innings. They were then helped by rain only allowing 9.2 overs to be bowled on the final day.
The problem for Kent appears to be capturing wickets. Their top wicket-taker so far this season is 21-year-old Nathan Gilchrist, with 15 and then comes Matt Quinn with six at an average of 48.3. They were unfortunate to lose Jackson Bird through injury and South African all-rounder George Linde is yet to make a mark with the ball. New Zealander Matt Henry will not arrive until after the upcoming series with England. At 46, Darren Stevens is still opening the bowling, but the batter friendly conditions mean he has only taken two wickets at 158.5. Their batting has enabled Kent to secure three draws and this has been led by opener Ben Compton, with three centuries, three fifties and an average so far this season of 95.7.
Northamptonshire are just above Kent in the table having only lost one game, that to the current leaders Surrey. They were behind against Yorkshire and Gloucestershire, but managed to hold out for the draw in both. Luke Procter and New Zealand opener, Will Young have led the batting, Procter currently averaging 118.7 and Young 55.2. Ben Sanderson is their leading wicket taker with 18 at 20.1 with veteran, Gareth Berg picking up 11 at 31.6. They might have hoped for a bigger contribution from their Australian pace bowler, Matt Kelly, who currently has six wickets from his four games at 63.7.
It could be difficult to force a result for either of these two bowling attacks and a draw is the most likely outcome.
Luke Procter moved down to Northamptonshire from Lancashire at the end of the 2017 season and the 33-year-old all rounder is a regular contributor with bat and ball. So far this season he is the county’s top run scorer and has taken seven wickets at 33.1. Batting in the top four and bowling first change demonstrates his importance to the Midlands side.
Zak Crawley has struggled so far this season having scored just 156 runs at an average of 19.5, with one half century from eight starts. He will be looking for a big score in his last game before the Test series starts against New Zealand.
Northamptonshire bring back Ben Sanderson and Tom Taylor, having rested them in their previous game. They have lost the services of Will Young as he has now joined the New Zealand squad.
Northamptonshire squad: Ricardo Vasconcelos (c), Gareth Berg, Josh Cobb, Ben Curran, Emilio Gay, Matt Kelly, Rob Keogh, Simon Kerrigan, Lewis McManus (wk), Luke Procter, Ben Sanderson, Tom Taylor, Jack White
For Kent, Grant Stewart is back from a hamstring injury and Marcus O’Riordan is included following his century last week against a Sri Lanka Development XI. Their top wicket taker, Nathan Gilchrist, is ruled out with a minor injury. Matt Milnes and Joe Denly have been rested.
Kent squad: Jack Leaning (c), Daniel Bell-Drummond, Ben Compton, Jordan Cox, Zak Crawley, George Linde, James Logan, Marcus O’Riordan, Harry Podmore, Matt Quinn, Ollie Robinson (wk), Darren Stevens, Grant Stewart
Weather and Conditions
The forecast is for temperatures in the high teens, cloud and a chance of showers. Thunderstorms are forecast for Wednesday night.
Northamptonshire have not played at home since 24th April but the two early games both ended in draws and I expect the batters to prosper. However, the forecast damp weather may have an influence.
Date: 19th – 22nd May 2022
Ground: The County Ground, Northampton
Odds (SkyBet): Northamptonshire 5/6; Kent 5/6