VIEW FROM THE BLUES: Keogh stars, but tired Northants lack cutting edge at Southampton

STAR PERFORMER - Rob Keogh
STAR PERFORMER - Rob Keogh
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There is no doubt about it, the Northants bowlers are tiring as the line nears for promotion to LV= Championship Division One.

The 545 at Hampshire last week was by far the highest score we have conceded this season, with our four highest first innings scores conceded in the campaign coming from the past five matches on those flatter pitches.

But I’m not worried this time.

I suspect David Ripley and Stephen Peters penned in the two away draws and the home win from Trent Copeland’s three matches, and also expect to beat Kent at home next week on result pitch to secure promotion.

We cannot, however, rule out another Essex stitch up if we don’t win one of the last two games.

Obviously we haven’t won a championship match without Copeland, and he took part in five wins and six draws in his 11 championship games here.

If he had played the full season we would probably be winning the league.

But his body and family life wasn’t up for it, and he leaves us in a great position to secure promotion, the first since 2003 under Mike Hussey.

I understand he can’t come back unless he plays two Test matches in the winter, and so an overseas spinner maybe on the cards for next year in division one.

What you don’t need down on the south coast is to be inserted at 10.30am under grey cloud on a greenish top in early September - and Northants were soon 33 for four.

With chasers Essex and Gloucestershire coming up against little resistance elsewhere (seemingly benefiting from a favour or two from opposing captains), a partnership or two was needed to dig ourselves out of hole quickly filling with sand at the Ageas Bowl.

Young Rob Keogh came in for David Willey, and was the surprise hero.

You don’t get much positive vibe for him at Wantage Road, but after a shaky start he started to enjoy the challenge and gained confidence to enjoy that 100 partnership with Andrew Hall (48) and then 100 more with Matt Spriegel (76).

‘The Finisher’ (Spriegel) came in for fellow spinning all-rounder Graeme White at the last when the on-loan Notts spinner was hit by a ball in warm up, Keogh completing that unexpected 100 and some.

That’s not bad for a 21-year-old in only his seventh first-class match.

The club clearly identified him to be a promising young player early on in attitude and talent and got their reward, the Academy beginning to pay off just as it is being wound down.

I’m not too fussed how stylish a player is (third man having blisters by all-accounts at the Ageas Bowl), as long as he has the bottle when he crosses the white line to go for it, which Keogh clearly does.

The record for the seventh-wicket against Hampshire was 187, adding to the eighth and ninth record achieved in the reverse fixture at the County Ground this year, Northants’ tail as deadly as a scorpion’s.

Regardless of subtle handshakes elsewhere, the acceleration didn’t come for the fifth batting point, and it is very much Peters’ tactic to bat the other team out of the game.

Keogh’s 221 was the sixth double this year in division two, with Northants having half of them.

As far as records go, I would say Keogh is probably the youngest English all-rounder to score a double for Northants, but I will leave that one for Tony Kingston to adjudicate on!

It was like all the frustration and runs he should have scored when he was dropped from the side burst out of him at once.

Holding the young ones back never works for me, but 439 all out did work for me, Northants now averaging more than 400 in the championship this year in the first innings, and are one batting point off a record 50.

With the last day likely to be washed out and Northants’ bowling attack on the defensive, Hampshire went along with it all and trundled towards the follow on with few alarms and expansive shots, Saturday and the YB40 semi-final on their mind.

The 545, though, was not expected, the highest Hampshire score against Northants on their own soil home, veteran Adams hitting 218 for his second double of the season.

Peters didn’t try much with his bowling on a pudding pitch, and there was no real effort by wither side to get a game on as the rain shadow reared up.

It was good to see Spriegel get both his first-class batting (76) and bowling (2-90) PBs for Northants in this game, although it wasn’t that hard to achieve.

What players hate most is criticism, especially by people who have never played the game.

But it works. We don’t want to return to the David Wigley situation where very average cricketers stay in the team because they are nice blokes.

It’s the other guys in the team who will be carrying these guy’s packs.

Peters (40) and Sales (66no) tidied up the draw at 137 for three for the close, but there was yet another failure for Alex Wakely.

He now has just one score more that 50 this season in 18 first-class innings, and 14 of those scores were under 20.

If a young player trying to establish himself in the team had that run he would be dropped pretty quick, Keogh an example of this.

Alex knows he should be dropped and maybe Rob Newton to come back in, and Wakes has become a bit of a spare part in the championship team, which is why Ripley split the captaincy this season, I presume.

Is Wakely just a one-day player? No. He just needs the challenge of division one, as does Sales, as do many others after a 10-year wait.

Interestingly, the rules state that the Hampshire game should have been restarted as there was only one official scorer on duty, Tony Kingston having to do both books after their guy phoned in sick, breaking an obscure rule.