VIEW FROM THE BLUES: Northants are lacking heart and youth

TIME FOR A FIRST TEAM CALL? - James Kettleborough
TIME FOR A FIRST TEAM CALL? - James Kettleborough

The ECB decided to put a cricket ball into space to celebrate the launch of the new Nat West T20 Blast.

Unfortunately there was quite a few up there already of all shapes and colours from a few average Northants bowlers over the years, and the PR stunt fell flat.

But it was the current Northamptonshire attack launched into space this week at the County Ground as Middlesex were the latest to hammer the County in the championship.

Yes, the victory over the Yorkshire Vikings last week in the Twenty20 was good stuff, but the last two championship matches haven’t just been defeats but a good old kickings.

It’s mostly a budget issue, the loss of the ECB incremental payments from Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar no longer playing for England costing us the funds for a bowler or two.

But also one or two players simply don’t fancy it, and others are too old for it.

Somebody has to step up and fight.

As expected, David Ripley went for a flatter pitch to grow the batters’ confidence, and it certainly looked to be working at 183 for three at tea on day one.

It could have been so much better as both Stephen Peters (67) and David Sales (41) gave their wickets away with poor shots.

We just don’t seem focused on building an innings, and those slogs signalled the expected collapse.

Sadly, the first day Sunday crowds are tumbling just as fast, only boosted by a local rugby club event in the main pavilion this time around.

This is a rugby town after all...

I just don’t know where the money is going to come from to boost this team.

We could seriously do with Richard Levi’s batting in the team, with this year’s dragged out Twenty20 format meaning some expensive idle hands in the week, and it is rumored Levi will play for Peterborough in the NCL this weekend.

The talk on the ground on the second day was Mal Loye’s presence in the Lou Vincent corruption case.

When approached by Vincent with ten and then twenty grand to spot fix, our Mal chose to ignore it, as all Northampton boys would.

But he didn’t alert the ECB and the ACU (the Anti Cricket Corruption Unit) at the time, and only told family and close friends.

We only heard about this approach because the police were called in after Vincent’s arrest. For me this cricket ‘code of honour’ leaves a vacuum for players to do nothing, and so I think Loye should have been braver.

The people who run the game would seemingly rather keep it all quiet, and that is just the cover the bad guys need.

Northants’ overnight 241 for eight ended up 283 all out (Roland-Jones 6-55), which was at least 120 runs short on a good track, new man Ian Butler already heading up the order with a well crafted 48 not out.

As expected, Northants toiled all day in the field in reply, the bowling looking very second division and the failure to strengthen the team in critical areas is killing us, especially in the more mature first-class cricket arena.

Ex Northants man Chris Rogers’ near faultless century and South African Malaan (a regular in the NCL back in the day and another one the County missed out on) stroked 92, adding 192 with Rogers, who finished on 106, his 65th first-class hundred.

You could see by lunch the Northants attack simply did not believe they could knock them over. Ripley’s pitch had backfired.

Whereas Northants aren’t prepared, or able, to build a big innings this season, Middlesex were on the same pitch, grafting their overnight 263 for three into 383 for four, before smashing the home side all over the park in the afternoon, appalling stuff.

It was bad as Riki Wessels at Trent Bridge, Dexter bagging a boundary packed 163 not out, and half-centuries from forgotten man Joe Denley (70) and 60 off 33 balls for Roland-Jones, his second PB in the match.

To go from 293 for three an hour before lunch to 543 for seven declared halfa -hour before tea is abject bowling. Andrew Hall’s long run up for his 70mph balls sort of sums up the somewhat feeble and delusional penetration of our attack.

Roland-Jones’ previous first-class best was 27 at an average of 10!

As flat as the pitch was, Northants were clearly never going to bat four sessions, and were four down by the close, with the next six gone by just after lunch on day four for another innings hiding,

Roland-Jones claimed his fourth PB of the match with six for 50, and match figures of 12 for 105.

This team is not going to win a single match this season without at least two more experienced bowlers coming in, and a bat or two taking their chances from the second team.

I hope that’s Rob Keogh, but whoever it is big team changes are needed now.

Spin bowlers opening the batting makes no sense, and I think James Middlebrook needs to drop down to seven to rally the tail and perhaps James Kettleborough having a crack at opening.

Rob Newton and David Murphy look a little out of their depth right now.

I’m surprised at how negative Newton has been as he is a far better player than what we are seeing.

Murphy will survive because I’m not sure Ben Duckett is fit enough to bend down and keep with his kneecap issue, and so it will be Newton and Matthew Spriegel under threat.

I think these thrashings will eventually derail our Twenty20 defence.