In the first in a series of reviews on the counties that won the domestic trophies during the 2013 English season we cast an eye towards Northamptonshire, Friends Life t20 (FLt20) victors and promoted in the LV= County Championship…
Ask all but Northamptonshire supporters to name the 18 first-class counties and the Wantage Road side is frequently one of the last to be mentioned. Unfashionable, unsuccessful Northants. Who noticed them if they were not playing them, unless to make an old joke about their South African intake and to label their t20 side the Steelboks?
Happily for the Northants players and supporters the days of inattention and mockery are over.
In 2013 the club enjoyed arguably the best year in its history, winning the FLt20, achieving promotion to the First Division of the County Championship and only missing out on a place in the YB semi-finals on run-rate.
Given that in 2012 no side won fewer matches that Northants, the transformation has been stunning, and while the efforts of the troops will attract most notice, the changes among the officers cannot be ignored.In January 2012 a new chief-executive, David Smith was appointed and in the middle of last season he sacked David Capel, replacing him with David Ripley. This season Andrew Hall was freed of the responsibility of skippering the four-day side, a task that was passed on to Stephen Peters. Alex Wakely led the one-day team and deputised for Peters when required.
The changes have worked spectacularly well. Even by mid-season it was clear that only Lancashire’s cricket was better than that of Northants and there was consequently little surprise that it is these two counties who will be playing First Division cricket next summer, Lancashire after one summer in the second tier, Northants after a decade there.
In the event promotion was achieved in relatively low-key fashion, when an inexplicably under-strength Essex side failed to secure sufficient bonus-points in their final match of the season against Hampshire at the Ageas Bowl. Did that matter to the Northants players or their small band of supporters at New Road? Did it heck as like.
For players like Steven Crook, picked up from Middlesex in the close season, or Azharullah signed from league cricket, or the club’s overseas player Trent Copeland, promotion was sweet indeed. Between them the trio picked up 113 Division Two wickets while David Willey, lauded in both Championship and one-day formats , bagged 45.
The batting was stronger too. Hall, unfettered by the cares of leadership, scored 936 Championship runs while David Sales was second on the list with 919.
But what was perhaps most noticeable about Northants in the summer just ended was a togetherness and team-spirit which saw them bounce back from two defeats to Lancashire and end the season as well as they started it.
It is this spirit which will be needed when the pressure is applied by the First Division’s big battalions. But it is also perhaps this spirit, added to the prospect of increased first-team opportunities, which influenced the ex-Essex seamer Maurice Chambers’ very recent decision to sign for Northants in preference to Warwickshire.
In going to Wantage Road Chambers will hope to play a part in one of English cricket’s most welcome success stories, one in which victories in games have been matched by a greater degree of financial independence. And it is equally welcome that Northants are not getting ahead of themselves but attempting to take secure steps towards prosperity.
Tough tests ahead
“We’re not Manchester United,” said coach Ripley, “but to the 100 people who clapped us off the pitch [at Worcester] and all the others following the game at home, that result meant a lot. I had plenty of doubts that we would get here so it’s just a relief we have.
“We know that it will be tough next year. But we’ve taken heart from the fact that Yorkshire have gone from runners-up in Division Two to runners-up in Division One in a season, and also the fact that we’ve been good in all formats and near the top of the Championship table since the first game shows we’ve deserved this. “
- Promotion seals golden year for Northants (espn.co.uk)
- Alec Stewart’s county cricket awards (bbc.co.uk)
As the editor of Cricket Badger he is intent on building the website to give quality coverage of the domestic game around the world.
James was the full-time Media Manager at Yorkshire County Cricket Club between 2007 and 2010.
James is a published author and a writer/video contributor to many cricket publications.
He's unsurprisingly a complete cricket badger!
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