VIEW FROM THE BLUES: Are more set for the County Ground exit door?

IMPRESSIVE PERFORMANCE - Olly Stone
IMPRESSIVE PERFORMANCE - Olly Stone
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So the clearout continues, which on the face of it seems a blatant sabotage of the red ball team, almost as if the players are being blamed for relegation by the very same management team who put out a non-competitive LV= Championship Division One side.

It appears the futures of David Murphy, Kyle Coetzer and Stephen Peters are in doubt, with the trio possibly joining Andrew Hall and James Middlebrook out of the Wantage Road exit door.

Hall - who was reportedly offered a one-year deal but turned it down - and Middlebrook have been the team’s the best performers in recent seasons, and have, it seems, been released solely on age grounds. If I was them, I would be contacting a lawyer!

Murphy is very unlucky and a good wicket-keeper, but you have to be able to smack sixes at number seven and eight in all formats, and he stopped doing that.

If you can’t out-hit little Ben Duckett, then you are done for.

The club – apparently – is carrying is a £200,000 deficit on the playing budget, which was revealed at the fans’ forum.

Some may say that the figure was plucked out of the air to justify the brutal cost cutting.

Alex Wakely said it himself in his column in the Chronicle & Echo last week, that the priority is the white ball stuff now.

A cynic would say that maybe chief executive David Smith doesn’t want the complication of a division two promotion challenge, hence firing the experienced and proud championship guys who would be our best chance to get back up.

This apathy to championship cricket could accelerate the end for the likes of Northants, Leicestershire, Derbyshire and Gloucestershire.

These counties are being destroyed by the ECB through the very system they created.

We know the Test and ODI teams are only really picked from the established first division clubs now, so what is the point of Wantage Road?

Olly Stone, Rob Keogh, Rob Newton, David Willey and Ben Duckett are all comfortably in contract and clearly the youthful future of the club.

But with the news Newton and Stone ‘may’ want away for better deals, should we really be releasing so many guys?

Richard Levi and Adam Rossington are set to sigh this month, so that’s good, but Maurice Chambers and Graeme White have work to do to prove they can be part of the new Northants.

I believe Levi will technically be our Kolpak now, so Hall’s replacement.

White’s season was disrupted by the hapless Matt Spriegel, but Chambers doesn’t look motivated yet.

Hopefully new man Josh Cobb can help sign a few of Leicestershire’s treble winning second team.

The club are also apparently going for Rory Kleinveldt, which again means no lessons have been learned.

The word is from South Africa that his ongoing injury is ‘restricting’ and always will be. Steer clear I say.

James Kettleborough simply jumped ship during the final match of the season against Sussex to to make his point.

If you can’t play all forms of cricket for Northants then you’re gone, it seems.

With next season’s glory hopes already cracked and weathered as the blue seats, Sussex wrapped up the season with a four day draw at Wantage Road.

A 19 point win was required for Northants not to be the worst division one side in history, and it looked good with Sussex at 76 for four, with good seam bowling on a slow used pitch from the impressive Stone and good nip from Mohamed Azharullah (3-82).

But Neil Wagner couldn’t join in the wicket party and it was the same old story as the ball got old and the partnerships arrived.

There were half-centuries for Wells and Yardy on day one.

The 33-year-old Zaidi then cracked a lively 88, a championship best, as was Magoffin’s 51, the pair sharing 113 for the eighth wicket on day two.

Stone enjoyed his first-class best of five for 48, a good demonstration of line and length bowling, and with a lovely action. Sussex were bowled out for 368.

We need to spend more to hold on to him. He is the good news story for me in what has been a traumatic week at the club.

The fans forum held during the Sussex match reflected that apathy, and it was a feisty one too, with one or two players’ parents in the audience.

Middlebrook senior was, not surprisingly, unhappy with his son’s departure, which was echoed on the ground as one cost cut too many for the fans.

The majestic Vulcan bomber that circled the ground during play seemed to sum up the foreboding growl of the older ones not quite ready to be decommissioned.

We also learnt that the Sky TV tower is to be a National Trust listed building, thankfully shielding the written press from what has also been a horrible season on the other half of the pitch!

Northants batted okay in brilliant sunshine, although Middlebrook ran himself out two runs short of an ‘up yours’ 50.

The future is young Keogh and the increasingly impressive Duckett (60) though, the pair driving the innings forward and past the follow on.

Keogh rounded off a rare good day with his accomplished hundred - so 1-0 to Smith’s youth policy!

A total of 294 all out wasn’t bad, and Northants were well in the game. Keogh’s 129 was a proper thought-out first division knock, while Magoffin’s five for 51 made him the country’s top wicket taker.

Sussex now needed a draw for third place and set about exactly that to close on day three at 209 for three, Joyce making 47 to finish as the championship’s top run scorer.

Not much more effort was applied on day four, with Sussex 343 all out by mid afternoon, setting Northants an impossible 417 ffrom 40 overs.

Azharullah posted Northants’ best bowling figures of the season with a surprise seven for 76. Opening the bowling next season could be beneficial for him.

Northants batted out the day for 84 for one to conclude the season with a draw.