VIEW FROM THE BLUES: Senior batsmen should have used Sri Lanka match to find form

BOWLING AGAIN - all-rounder David Willey made a welcome return to bowling action for Northants in the match against Sri Lanka
BOWLING AGAIN - all-rounder David Willey made a welcome return to bowling action for Northants in the match against Sri Lanka
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Chief Executive David Smith promised to get tough on the senior players letting us down in the championship by dropping them from the tourist game against Sri Lanka last week.

Problem is, the senior pros rarely play against the tourists, and so their absence was more like a reward.

The punishment can’t really happen though, as we need the bodies, and the struggling players such as Andrew Hall and David Sales, are not going to be released any day soon.

Surely they should have played against Sri Lanka as they needed the batting practice? It’s a bit of a no win situation.

In defence of Hall, he has bowled well this year, and I do feel Ripley should have kept him in the Twenty20 picture so to keep him motivated for the tough championship challenge ahead.

Now certain players know they won’t be here next year, they are simply winding down and looking to their future careers.

Hall getting that three year contract was bonkers.

Some fans grumbled and said it was disrespectful for Smith to rebuke Northants’ stalwarts in the press as he did, but first division cricket means a gaggle of important broadsheet writers on the ground ready to collar disgruntled Chief Execs and angry comments aree inevitable.

No, it’s my job to criticise the players when needed and to take the animosity that follows.

I don’t enjoy it, but if it makes Northants players’ lives easier if they get to blame the media and others for their slump, and that helps improve their form for my team, then I’m happy!

Sri Lanka got first go on a batting friendly pitch no doubt requested by their management.

They duly ran up another huge score, and it is now five times Northants have conceded more than 400 in a first-class match this season.

The tourists’ 558 for eight declared included two more centuries, Silva scoring 158 and Thirimanne 156, the Northants bowlers conceding their second 300 partnership in a week.

Sri Lanka unleashed their full range of shots with a smile on their faces, and there were 10 sixes and 67 fours to entertain a pretty poor crowd over the opening two days of the match.

If Sri Lanka are to hurt England in the Test series it will be off the bat.

They are a laid back bunch and spent most of the first day messing around with a football while waiting to have their turn to bat, some padded up, the interim management of Chris Adams and Marvin Atapattu clearly not that bothered about discipline.

I think it’s the most relaxed tour game I have ever been to.

At one point the game was held up by the usual car with the sun reflecting of the windscreen scenario.

It took two hours to find the owner, who was none other than ex-Test umpire David Ledbetter, the ECB match assessor!

David Willey managed 12 decent overs and concentrated on line and length and getting his run up right.

He tried nothing fancy and will hopefully get four overs tonight against Yorkshire in the NatWest T20 Blast.

Northants’ fragile batting was just that against Sri Lanka, and they were 146 for five by the close of day two.

Richard Levi became the first Northants overseas player to play in a Northants tourist match for many a year, and his 64 was his first first-class innings in England. It gave him much-needed batting practice.

Not surprisingly, coach David Ripley has explored the possibility of rotating him with Ian Butler as an overseas player for the championship.

Will Butler pick up a surprise injury in the Twenty20 tonight to allow that to happen?

We need more runs and Levi has them and would certainly be entertaining in the middle order.

We could move Middlebrook to six in the order, and so add more backbone to the batting order.

I hope that happens.

Results have not improved enough with Butler to justify his place in the team.

Day three was surprisingly called off by lunch as the sun quickly came through after heavy morning rain.

Play was underway in the NCL at nearby Old Northamptonions by 2pm, and the decision seemed a bit deliberate.

If this was Twenty20 or the Indian or Australian touring team, we would have played at 3pm for at least 50 overs.

After two poorly attended days maybe it was cheaper to send home the security and catering staff to save money, rather than entertain the 300 regulars who should have better things to do at the weekend.

For the final day it was a question of Northants being able to last 90 overs with 15 wickets left.

Well, they did, although Sri Lanka had no real issue with that, a much better batting performance seeing Northants not only past 300 for the first time in a first-class fixture this year, but also score a century, young Rob Keogh (120) getting the County’s first this season.

It was a lovely measured innings, with 18 crafted boundaries, an effort putting some of the older players to shame, Willey entertaining at the other end by stroking 48 off 61 balls in a brisk 75 partnership.

I like Keogh as he looks calm out there and doesn’t play crazy shots.

Graeme White slogging out third ball for nine down when Keogh was 16 short of his century raised an eyebrow or two, but Barrett (possibly in for Butler next LVC) offered the correct support, and Keogh closed the innings on 345 all out with a last-wicket 64 run partnership.

Sri Lanka shook hands on 99 for four in their second innings for the draw, and headed to Lord’s for what looks like a good hiding, if you can drag them off the beach!