VIEW FROM THE BLUES: Duckett delivers but Taunton show is too little too late from Northants

MAIDEN CENTURY - Ben Duckett scored 144 for Northants against Somerset
MAIDEN CENTURY - Ben Duckett scored 144 for Northants against Somerset

Like Northampton’s main shopping street, the relegated Northants cricket team is being dismantled to start all over again.

Whereas no one has any idea why Abington Street is being altered as it is, County chief executive David Smith is seizing the chance to hack the wage bill to prepare for life back in the little leagues.

I feel there was no real attempt was made by Northants to stay in the top division, as it’s simply not possible on our budget.

The future recruits, like those new bricks they are using to build a new road in Abington Street, are likely to look remarkably like the old ones being taken out for no real reason.

So unless one of you lot win the Euro Millions and are feeling generous, then I fear it’s 10 more years in the doldrums for Northants.

Saying that, the past two division one campaigns saw us win just one and two games respectively, so we were expecting this.

I’m sorry to say, Northants are a second division club, and always will be.

I can safely say there won’t be a parachute included in our ECB parachute payment, with Northants hitting the ground with a thump!

With the unseasonal autumnal conditions, just one day’s cricket in the past couple of weeks for Northants, and those heads rolling as punishment for that dreadful campaign, it feels like the season is already over.

But we are back in school and it’s four straight championship games in a row for Ripley that could only bring bad news for the players and fans alike.

Taunton was first up this week and Andrew Hall was in the 11, showing just how important he has been to the championship side since his arrival.

I understand why Smith has got rid of him as he plans a clean sheet return to division two with a younger English qualified team and that lower wage bill, but we will miss Andrew, a tremendous player for us over the years.

Another year, with a benefit thrown in, would have been my option, but I don’t know how good or bad the books are.

It was good to see Adam Rossington sign for another month, but that may suggest he is buying time to look at other offers - him scoring that impressive hundred in the Notts game may count against us.

It does look like Josh Cobb has signed from Leicestershire though.

Somerset hit first and were restricted to 314 all out on day one, the 163 partnership from Nick Compton (88) and Alex Barrow (79) dominating the innings.

Great to see a fit David Willey back in the wickets with four 64 and there was good support by Azharullah with three for 69.

They both haven’t been right this year, and there is surely a winter of conditioning ahead for both. Neil Wagner continues not to impress.

Stephen Peters returned as captain and James Middlebrook was relieved of his opening duties as the skipper (46) put on a 100 with James Kettleborough (49), matching the previous season’s opening best of 107 (Peters and Middlebrook) against Notts back in May.

The fans like the look of ‘Ketts’, and wonder why he wasn’t opening back in May.

A total of 14 broken fingers for the squad suggests a batting coach would not be a bad idea next season. Perhaps one called Andrew Hall or Mal Loye?

Needless to say, Northants wobbled after a long rain break as three quick wickets fell in the remaining 10 overs of day two.

But with the stronger batting order and Matthew Spriegel out of the way, it was Northants of old as the middle order recovered the situation from 130 for four to an impressive 448 for nine, easily our best score of the season and, whisper it quietly, a declaration!

The highlight was the coming of age of young Ben Duckett, relieved of the wicketkeeping gloves and batting at seven, the pressure rightfully being taken off this exciting young talent.

A score of 144 was his maiden first-class ton and the third highest for a Northants batsmen batting at eight (night watchman Wagner dropped him a place). Middlebrook hit 61 and helped turn the tide in his more comfortable middle order slot, and equalled his first-class run tally from last season.

Who knows how many more runs he would have got batting seven all this year?

Can we really afford to lose two top class guys like Hall and Middlebrook?

Rather ironically, these are the type of guys we will need to bring in next season to avoid joining Leicester at the bottom.

After all, 38-year-old Marcus Trescothick got his 1,000th run of the season in this game.

Hall and Azharullah added 64 for the last wicket to beat a 102-year-old record against Somerset.

So, the batsmen delivered, but could the bowlers take 10 wickets on the final day?

Itlooked possible at 200 for six with Willey swinging it like Rory Mcilroy.

Somerset were just 66 on with 20 overs to go and as glum as the light after Yorkshire’s victory ended their title hopes.

But it was not to be as hands were shaken at 5.17pm and Northants returned to division two like a steel safe being lobbed off the Empire State Building!

I lay the blame for relegation squarely at the batsmen’s feet, as they proved in this game they could do it.

The bowling attack was never going to compete.

Let’s hope next year’s identified overseas bowler actually shows up.