Check out the latest from our Fan Blog below:
ENTRY ONE | APRIL 2016
Here we go again, the start of the cricket season has finally arrived and like most Northants supporters, I cannot wait! It may be early April but hopefully the weather will be kind for our opening county championship match to division two favourites, Sussex. It will be a particularly tough division this season as only one team will be fortunate enough to gain promotion into the holy grail that is division one.
From the counties point of view let's hope that we can be as competitive this season as we were last, only losing three matches in the county championship. Our best chance of any silverware will most likely be in the white ball competitions, though if we can stay free of injury there is a strong chance we can be competitive in all three formats of the game. The absence of David Willey will no doubt be felt hugely by both players and supporters as he has moved on to pastures new. Although as he played most of his cricket for us in the white ball comps, it will give a chance for some of the younger members of our squad such as Saif Zaib and Olly Stone to step up to the plate. It will be strange this season not seeing Stephen Peters striding out to the crease to open the batting in the county championship as he had done for many years for the club. I feel the opening pair will have a big gap to fill, however, Ben Duckett took to it like a duck to water last season and has had a remarkable 1st day against Sussex, scoring 178 not out. Rob Newton would seem the obvious choice to fill the void left by Peters, but rather frustratingly for him and the fans his current injury has kept him out of the running as we go into the opening match against Sussex. His place has been filled by Jake Libby, who is on loan from Nottingham CCC for a month. This right handed opening batsman can also bowl off breaks and on the tour to Barbados for Notts he scored a century against Hampshire. Unfortunately for him however, he missed most of last season with a serious knee injury but he will be looking to get in the runs again and hopefully that will be for Northants! I wish him well.
Our bowling attack looks competitive, fingers crossed that we don't pick up too many injuries! With the acquisitions of Ben Sanderson, Richard Gleeson and of course Monty Panesar there will be plenty of competition on the bowling front. It is nice to welcome back again our two South African players in Richard Levi and Rory Klienveldt. Rory had a great season last year for us taking fifty seven wickets in the championship and with other counties wanting to sign him for this season it was great news and refreshing in this day and age that he was more than happy to re-sign for us this season. I would like to take this opportunity to wish Monty Panesar all the best for this season. Reports suggest his shoulder operation went well, and the way he is bowling in the nets sounds very encouraging. I shouldn't think it will be too long now before Monty will be challenging Graeme White for a birth in the championship team. Then we can look forward to his trade mark hop and a skip when he takes a wicket! It is also nice to see young academy player Tom Sole added to the first team squad. I have been hearing some good reports from the tour of Barbados about this Scottish all-rounder and that can only bode well for the future of the club. With financial restraints at our club it is nice to still see so much positivity from our board, staff and especially the players led by our captain Alex Wakely. We must remember that it is up to us as supporters to get behind the team and enjoy the season.
Credit must go to David Ripley and Phil Rowe for keeping such a competitive squad with such a small budget. This is shown no more so than the signing of Sri Lankan T20 international Seekugee Prasanna who, unlike some top internationals, is available for all thirteen T20 matches for us which obviously keeps the continuity going within the squad for this competition. Although he may not be a household name, remember most people had not heard of Mike Hussey or Trent Copeland before they came to us, he is no mug when it comes to this format of the game and should bring some great excitement to the county ground. I would like to wish all the players and staff great success for the 2016 season and let's hope all of us supporters will get to see some great cricket from Alex and the boys as I am sure we will. All the best for the season! "Come on the county "
ENTRY TWO | MAY 2016
"It's T20 time again "
It's that time of the season again when we start the razzmatazz of the T20 blast season. Just before we have a look at the start of the T20 campaign for the Steelbacks lets take a brief look at our county championship season as to date. Out of the five matches played so far by ourselves we have lost one and drawn four. Without setting the league alight it has been a steady start but looking at the league trend things don't seem such a bad start when you consider in division two there has been thirty four draws already compared to just five wins. Whether people think the new rules on the captains choice or toss to decide matters is working, this is open to discussion for another day. On the batting front Ben Duckett was superb in his 282 not out knock against Sussex and the chance of braking Mike Husseys batting record was probably only thwarted by the weather. A great foil to the attacking attributes of Duckett is the shrewd loan signing from Notts of Jake Libby who current has an impressive batting average for us of nearly fourty nine, wouldn't it be nice to see him in the county colours on a regular basis next season !
With some of the bowlers like Stone, Panesar and Crook coming back to full fitness hopefully we can push up the table as the season goes on.
Now looking ahead to the "crash bang wallop " of the cricket format better known as T20. As Iam writing these notes we had a great if nerve racking finish by beating local rivals the Leicestershire foxes. Already it looks as though our coach David Ripley has pulled of a shrewd signing by purchasing the Sri Lankan all rounder Seekkuge Passanna. The leg spinner bowled a tight four overs and picked up a wicket but he saved the best for last when hitting a six of his first ball to win the rain effected match. Looking at our small squad we are obviously going to miss the talents of David Willey and Shaid Afridi but if Passanna who unlike Afrid will be available for all fourteen matches for us can carry on his Leicestershire form then he will be a very able replacement for our Pakistan superstar of last season. I personally fancy us to have another excellent competition and certainly I see no reason why we cannot reach the quarter finals and beyond . The benefit we have over the other teams is even though we may not have bought in to many players compared to the other counties firstly we have an experienced squad in this format and secondary the team comradery stays the same. Sometimes to many new faces can upset the team morale and ethics with inside a squad. The balance looks good batting wise we are led by Richard Levi with back up from Ben Duckett, Alex Wakely,Rob Keogh, Adam Rossington and Rob Newton. All rounders Josh Cobb, Steven Crook and Seekkuge Prassanna. Plenty of options on the bowling front too with Rory Kleinveldtz, Olly Stone, Mohhammed Azarullah , Graeme White and the three all rounders. Like any team injuries play a big part in any sports teams but fingers crossed that our small squad stay free of injuries I think we can as we have shown in previous t20 tournaments compete with any teams that we face. The loss of Willey will give some of the other boys a chance to step upto the fore and it was interesting to see Adam Rossington doing a good job up front opening the batting and Ben Duckett seeing us home so thes lads that can easily fill David Willeys boots. Iam as always really looking forward to this tournament and as the club rightly say our squad is geared up to white ball cricket we should fear no one and Iam sure Alex and the boys will do us proud.
One other foot note it is refreshing to see that the ECB will be giving a hand out to all of the counties, and boy is that welcoming news for us !
Let's all hope we can reach the quarterfinals and beyond, no pressure but don't forget the name Prasanna looks a bargain !
" come on you steelbacks "
ENTRY THREE | JUNE 2016
As we go through "flaming" June or perhaps more fittingly ‘damp squid June’, it's not easy keeping up to date with all three competitions going on at the moment. We appear to be back in the fold with a recent county championship match draw at the very picturesque Arundel castle against the bookies division two favourites, Sussex. I have been to Arundel castle twice to see Northamptonshire play in a one day game. Though this, I believe, is the first time we have played them there in a four day game and I would definitely say it’s one ground that is worth a visit.
I am delighted that we are currently top of the table in the T20 tournament, quite a remarkable feat considering the amount of injured key players we have at present, not to mention the surprise call up of Seekkuge Prasanna to the Sri Lankan one day squad. Good luck to him of course, though we will no doubt miss his all-round capabilities. Hopefully we’ll soon be able to welcome back Rory Kleinveldt who is currently out with a calf injury before too long. It is such a shame to see that Olly Stone has been hit by the dreaded injury curse once again. Along with the rest of the Northants supporters, I would like to wish him the best of luck and a very speedy recovery. I have every confidence that he will return stronger and fitter in time for next season.
We have signed Moin Ashrad on a short term basis for the rest of the T20 competition and what a start he made against Durham, taking three wickets and showing good pace and variation with the ball. Hopefully this cracking form will continue from the former Yorkshire player. We are currently sat at a respectable looking sixth place in the Royal London One Day Cup table, only three points behind the leaders Derbyshire. The team are showing true grit and determination on all fronts, despite being hit badly by injury. The One Day match away at Nottinghamshire was a great example of this, as the day culminated in one of Northants’ all-time greatest replies, with the boys missing out on a win by the smallest of margins.
Two players who seem to have gone under the radar are Ben Sanderson and Richard Gleeson. The former is our leading wicket taker in the county championship with a fantastic fifteen wickets under his belt, and the latter seems to be getting better and better with the more games he plays - especially in T20. With our particularly small squad and injury set back, it is refreshing to see these two lads in their first full season in the first team step up to the mark. They have been given a fantastic opportunity by David Ripley and it is great to see them playing with so much confidence - long may it continue. The club as a whole are doing well and are heading in the right direction on and off the pitch, wouldn't it be nice to reach another T20 Finals Day, fingers crossed!
ENTRY FOUR | AUGUST 2016
‘Wow’ is the word I would use to describe our One Day Cricket of late. I think if I were to use anything stronger, then this would be my last blog I write for the club. What a fantastic month this has been for little old Northamptonshire County Cricket Club. With long term injury Olly Stone out of action for the season and one or two other minor niggles, the whole squad has been fully utilized in both red and white ball cricket. David Ripley and the rest of the backroom staff have worked their magic with the team – credit must go to them for that. If you asked me or any other Northants supporter at the start of the season, to have made it to one quarter final and a Finals Day would have been more than enough, surpassing that is truly magical! It really makes you proud to be a supporter of this club, despite its financial constraints, we still manage to produce results on the field and compete with the big guns. Just moving onto the red ball cricket, a special mention must go to Ben Sanderson who has put in some terrific spells of bowling as of late. Sanderson is very much like Richard Gleeson in the sense that he does not give much width for the batsman to hit. Although Gleeson is probably a touch quicker and gets a little extra bounce with the his height, I think that Sanderson swings the ball more. Once again credit to the backroom staff for finding and signing both of these bowlers, sometimes you maybe get one new bowler to come off but two get both of them performing so well in their first full season is exceptional and also it softens the blow a bit of loosing Olly Stone to injury and Warwickshire. I am writing this piece before Thursdays Royal London One Day Cup match against Surrey but again I would like to wish the boys all the very best for this match, what a great achievement it is to get through to the last Eight of this competion. Who would have thought back in June when we played at Trent bridge and Notts were 320 odd for no wicket that we would end up qualifying and they would not !
On to Finals Day at Edgbaston, making three finals days out of the last four years practically makes it home from home. Of course this is the first time int the T20 tournament that all four teams have come from the same group and that group being the north. We are on first against our old bogey team Notts who we haven't beaten in a competition since 2006. However, with our current experience in the last few years of finals day I am confident we can beat Notts and reach another final. Afterall, we were under dogs last year in the first semi against Warwickshire on their own patch and we beat them. No doubt the bookies will have Notts as favourites on Saturday which of course will suit our boys down to the ground ! Special mention to Ben Ducket who is having a wonderful season with the bat and rightly got recognition by playing and excelling for the England Lions, well done Ben! I want to wish Alex Wakely and the boys the best of luck for Saturday – Let’s hope that all the players, staff and supporters have a wonderful day and knock down a few of the bigger counties along the way.
"Come on you steelbacks"
ENTRY FIVE | END OF SEASON
The 2016 cricket season has come to an end for Northamptonshire County Cricket Club. And what a season it has been! With the smallest squad on the county circuit winning the T20 final, reaching the Quarter Final of the Royal London One Day Cup and finish a respectable Fifth in the county championship after a slow start - it has certainly been a fantastic year for our county.
In the County Championship we seemed to draw most of our early matches. In the second half of the season our fortunes changed winning our last three matches including an excellent away win at promotion challenging Kent.
In the Royal London Cup we qualified by finishing top of our group. When you look back at the game against Notts at Trent bridge in that remarkable match, who would have thought after Notts being 341 for no wicket we would go on to top the group and Notts would fail to qualify at all.
Then of course there was that fantastic finals day in August at Edgbaston when we beat our bogey team Notts in the first semi final who we had failed to beat since 2006. Even though they had recalled their big guns in Broad, Hales and Russell our boys done the business and qualified for the Final against the other apparently unfancied County in Durham. And what a memorable Final it was for the Steelbacks, defeating the Jets to round off a very memorable season. Our team spirit in what has become a closely knit changing room has carried us through. It was nice to see a batsman pass the one-thousand runs mark in a season in the county championship which was last achieved numerous years ago by Stephen Peters. And what a batsman Ben Duckett is! He's had a remarkable season in all formats of the game, capping it off with a winter tour for England and a new two year deal with the county - great news indeed! A mention to all of the 22 players (some on lone) that appeared for the county in some form or other this season. I'd like to say a huge well done on behalf of the supporters, you have done a fantastic job for our county and we are all very proud. Also a mention too must go to our coach, David Ripley, who has kept things ticking over superbly. Special mention to all of the other coaches, fitness staff and physios who have all done a remarkable job and played their part this season. With rumours of a bigger squad next season with more money to be rightly given to David Ripley, hopefully we can build on this seasons success and attract the right kind of players to our closely knit squad.
Whatever next season may bring with talks of a city T20 now looking likely, nothing can take away from this seasons achievement with a very approachable bunch of players. It makes you proud to be a Northamptonshire CCC supporter and it's nice when you go to some of the away games and the opposition fans are congratulating you on your T20 achievements , it leaves you very proud and satisfied as a supporter. I would just personally like to thank Alex Wakely and all of the players and backroom staff on what had been a truly magnificent 2016. Let's all hope that 2017 is just as exciting for all of us that are connected to Northamptonshire CCC. Winter well and bring on the 2017 season! (I can't wait!)
ENTRY SIX | MAY 2017
Here we are again at the start of the 2017 cricket season. Firstly, it is pleasing to see that the club have managed to hold onto the majority of last season’s squad with a few of the players managing to sign extensions to their existing contracts. The likes of Ben Duckett Ben Sanderson and Josh Cobb must have had other counties interested in there services however apart from the departure of Olly Stone I am glad to say that all of the other players have remained at the county which goes to show what a sound, healthy state the club is in at this present time. Quite a few years ago things would have been a lot different with players prepared to hunt pastures new but with a couple of T20 trophies in the cabinet, players want to come and play for the county demonstrated by the signing of Nathan Buck from Lancashire, who is still only 26 with plenty of years ahead of him. He looks a valuable acquisition to the already talented present squad. One of my main worries since the retirement of Stephen Peters in the County Championship is the position of opening batsmen. Ben Duckett, and towards the end of the season, Rob Newton have done a very good job but there is not much competition for these two. Last season we were lucky to have Jake Libby on loan from Nottinghamshire who performed superbly in the role; it is welcoming to see that David Ripley has managed to get hold of Max Holden, the England under 19s captain from Middlesex, who is on loan with us until June. He is a very promising opening batsman who can also bowl a bit of spin with an excellent reputation, so we welcome him on board and let's hope he does a good a job for us as Jake Libby did in his loan spell at the club. Apart from a new fitness coach and the above mentioned players there are not to many more changes over winter which I think is always a beneficial thing especially after seeing first-hand how healthy the team spirit is amongst the players, which is a unique bond our squad have!
I personally cannot wait until the season starts as we look strong on all three fronts and as long as we stay relatively injury free I think we can give a good competitive account of ourselves as we did last season. It's good to also see that we have managed to re-sign Rory Kleinveldt and Richard Levi for the coming season as I understand both players were sort after by other counties but were keen and eager to sign for us again. With the resigning of Seekuge Prasanna for the T20 Blast competition again, continuity is the key word for the club, as Prasanna is available for the whole of this year’s competition and is an incredibly effective competitor.
Of course the main issue in domestic cricket this season is the new T20 city competition that looks likely to be coming into play in the year 2020 and has been subject to controversial discussion and we shall see what effect it will have on a county like ourselves. It looks good for the players to better themselves and earn a nice salary but for Northants supporters a lesser run county t20 competition will run a long side it. From my own personal point of view I feel it is a pity that more money from the ECB was not pumped into the current format that seems so popular with people plus a re-arranged contract to get it shown on terrestrial TV would have been a good idea. But at least we can defend our trophy for the next few years without a worry!
All that is left for me to say is I wish the players staff and management the very best of luck for the 2017 cricket season.
"Come on you Steelbacks "