VIEW FROM THE BLUES: ECB ruling meant Northants never had a chance

SORELY MISSED - Trent Copeland could have made a big difference to the Northants team in division one this summer

SORELY MISSED - Trent Copeland could have made a big difference to the Northants team in division one this summer

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It’s been a rather tedious week of celebrities and sports people having ice water poured over them for a charity they have never heard of in search of a headline they don’t deserve, Israel, Ebola and Isis sharing the front page with Cheryl Cole getting a soaking.

The Northants players have also been at it and, in this case, fully deserve a bucket of water tipped on their heads, a truly embarrassing season to follow up last year’s exceptional one.

But it’s not all down to their making.

When the ECB tightened the rules on overseas players, it pretty much ended the small counties like Northants’ chances of ever challenging in Division One, and is why our Twenty20 win was all the more remarkable.

Without Trent Copeland we were dead in the water this season.

The ECB say counties can only have an overseas star that has played international cricket within a stipulated period, and affordable ones are few and far between now because of the rule.

We presumed this tweak was to stop run-of-the-mill Australians and South Africans at the end of their careers blocking the young English county players coming through the county system that is supposed to feed the Test team.

But the same ECB are then selecting the England team from every other country’s Under 19 side and ignoring those very English guys who have come through the English system!

This ruling has simply strengthened the big English Test match ground counties who can afford to poach the best young English players and tempt the overseas Test stars.

If Surrey and Hampshire do indeed come up, and Northants drag Sussex down on the last day of the championship, all nine counties in the First Division will be the country’s elite, stuffed full of those players.

With the new chairman and chief exec of the ECB likely to be voted in from those nine, you do wonder where it leaves us?

Was this the ECB plan all along?

The loss of Copeland and the inability to secure his equal in Jackson Bird will see Northants relegated in the next round of the Championship.

The one-day campaign was wrapped up last week in similar bleak fashion with the Steelbacks failing to defend 311 under the lights at Wantage Road, a new Northants record, and only the third time at Wantage Road both teams have scored 300.

What sounded like a thrilling last-over match was never in doubt as the Steelbacks yet again failed to score enough runs first up, another example of the lack of a beefy batsmen able to clear the ropes on good central pitches and bat out the overs.

I think the groundsmen are the only ones you can’t fault at Wantage Road this season.

The match was only memorable for the Steelbacks’ best performance of the season with David Willey’s effortless and brilliant century.

England would be crazy not to use him in the World Cup this winter.

All season in the one-day stuff, only two or three players have raised their game on the field each match which has resulted in defeat after defeat.

It just needed one or two bowlers to deliver a decent 10 overs in a couple of London Cup matches and we would have qualified.

I’m pretty shocked both Leicestershire and Derbyshire finished above us in our group.

I thought this tournament would suit the likes of Maurice Chambers, Ben Duckett, Kyle Coetzer, Matt Spriegel and Graeme White, but they simply faded away.

The players’ win bonuses last year and a relatively poor return on the Madness concert pretty much blocked any chance of good players coming in for 2014, and so the backroom team has to take some of the blame for the ageing squad, one match this season seeing seven guys above 30 playing in the same side.

But David Smith has had enough of the oldies and the cull is underway.

David Sales has retired and Andrew Hall been edged out. Indeed, Hall’s expensive three year-deal didn’t help financing for 2013, and his distinct loss of pace meant he was never really in the one-day picture.

I thought the 40-year-old might get another year after being top scorer in 2013 with 936 at 55 and 37 wickets at 25, but it was not to be, 39 with the ball and 26 with the bat this time around telling its own story.

But Hall was not the only player to be found out in Division One, and Spriegel was another.

You all know my thoughts on him, and I have felt he has been a poor player from day one, failing to have any impact on limited overs cricket. That was why he was brought in, as he is not first-class standard.

At least Hall going frees up a fresh Kolpak option.

I think James Middlebrook will be unlucky if he is not offered a new deal as he did step up to open the batting in 2013 when no one else fancied it.

He has been exploited somewhat this season, and kept in that role at the cost of his average so the club could save cash by not hiring a bespoke opener for the top league, a key position and a fatal decision.

I’m sure he already knows his fate, but 1,000 runs is not impossible for him this season with 328 required in four matches and a point proved to other employers out there.