VIEW FROM THE BLUES: Smith has every right to be proud of himself

COOL FINISHER - Cameron White
COOL FINISHER - Cameron White
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So, after an angry helicopter took out one or two distinguished toupees and knocked a few pensioners of their walking sticks at the Help for Heroes charity night at Wantage Road last week, attention turned to a critical month of cricket in August for the boys.

At the end of last season, the Chief Exec David Smith said we needed to improve our white ball cricket and he wasn’t wrong, just two victories in total in 2012, one of those against Scotland.

With 12 one-day wins in the bag already by July, Smith has every right to tip his hat with his thumbs in his pocket and whistle his favorite tune for achieving what he has as he proudly laps the ground, a thumping six wicket win at Cardiff last Friday night securing a brilliant home Twenty20 quarter-final.

He may not enjoy the occasional sedition from this column, but it’s mostly praise from me now for his rolled-up sleeves attitude to make things work for Northants.

With the find of the season Muhammad Azharullah set to sign a new two year deal, the fresh faces have transformed the Twenty20 team’s attitude and Smith made sure we got the right bodies in, the qaurter-final money about to pay for them.

Going into Friday’s game, both Glamorgan and the Steelbacks were unbeaten at home in the competition, and so a win a massive advantage in the pursuit of that home tie in the last eight.

That was pressure Alex Wakely’s boys wanted to have in front of a record 10,000 crowd, and they delivered, with Somerset’s surprise defeat to Worcestershire the day after delivering the big match.

Gmaorgan hit first on what we thought would be a Bunsen Burner, a jaded David Willey no doubt asked to play at the last when David Ripley discovered a green seamer at Cardiff under the lights, the Welsh side clearly wanting to blunt the threat of Cameron White and Richard Levi by setting up their star Aussie seamer Hogan in the process.

Their total of 125 for nine wasn’t great from the home side, tumbling from 70 for one.

Once Cook was out for 50, the seam of Azharullah (4-16) and Willey (3-17) took over again and they got the job done with eight going down for 55 in the failed slog.

Azhar is miles ahead in the best bowler league in Twenty20 this year, and Willey is currently MVP.

The baking sun and the need to bring people back to Twenty20 has seen the pitches improve and so less worn out turners, which is empowering the seamers to get more overs and so batsmen to get truer pitches to score on.

It’s been a great year for the format.

The Steelbacks were tentative in the chase, but once halfway with just two down, White did his finishing thing with 71 not out and it was job done, his IPL experience and calmness under pressure in the chase invaluable this year.

If we bat first, Levi has been the man, and if we bat second Cameron is the man.

The change in the team’s attitude from last year is extraordinary.

This is now a classy confident outfit chasing silverware, that opening Twenty20 win back in June so critical for that state of mind.

The now dead rubber against the Worcester Royals to wrap up the group campaign on Tuesday saw a decent crowd rock up at Wantage Road, Ripley quite rightfully resting a few.

It was good to see Andrew Hall fit again and Olly Stone get a bowl, although I’m unsure about his Phil Neville haircut!

An inevitable 182 was carted around the ground by the Royals with 20 entertaining boundaries and man-of-the-match Mo Ali making 72.

He looked set for a hundred after 14 overs and a record score on the ground as the bowlers went through the motions.

The Royals’ 182 was surprisingly the joint seventh highest score at the ground and so no chance of a chase. The best chase for a tie at the NCG is 180 (Yorkshire) and 163 (Glamorgan) for the win.

It’s a big ground when the pitches are central, and the Steelbacks never really looked like getting them to close on 145 for six, Ali’s five for 34 the second best visiting bowling on the ground for an amazing personal match.

If the intensity isn’t there you won’t win many, and so perhaps it would have been wiser to have rested more in this game.

With Levi out for the quarter-final next week and one or two contracts nearly up, then maybe they could have stuck David Sales in for a slog or tried Luke Evans.

For any other business, watching the IIs last week against a Scotland development side you could see the lads had those contracts on their minds.

It’s that time of the year, and for the likes of Sales, Evans and Con De Lange the end of the plank beckons.

Con has been unlucky with injury. He was one of our better slow bowlers last year and deserves another go.

Sales, on the other hand, was given the benefit of the doubt for another season, but looks like he has gone over the top, content to just occupy the crease.

Another county may pitch up with a decent offer for him, but for me I think he will retire.

Evans, bless him, bowled as many overs he could to impress, matching Trent Copeland’s stamina but not ability - the Scots were 200 for one when he got the hook on the way to a big defeat in a 310 chase.

I think the club’s patience has run out with Lukey and as a trained pilot, a Ryan Air out of Luton beckons.