Berg believes Northants are making good progress

Northants all-rounder Gareth BergNorthants all-rounder Gareth Berg
Northants all-rounder Gareth Berg
Gareth Berg believes Northants are in good shape as they go into the second half of their LV= Insurance County Championship Group 3 campaign - but says the team is still very much on ‘a learning curve’.

The experienced all-rounder is one of the few Northants players to have had lengthy exposure to top division cricket in England, having played in division one for many years with both Middlesex and Hampshire.

The County were promoted from division two in 2019, and although they have been denied the chance to as yet take their earned place in division one due to the Covid-19 pandemic, this season’s three-group Championship format has come pretty close in standard.

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Group 3 contains northern powerhouses Lancashire and Yorkshire as well as recent division one mainstays Kent, along with two teams the County know well from their division two campaigns in Sussex and Glamorgan.

Gareth BergGareth Berg
Gareth Berg

It is certainly a testing and competitive group, and as Northants prepare to start their second round of five group games against Lancashire at Wantage Road on Thursday, they are within touching distance of the top two.

A first or second placed finish would see David Ripley’s side compete for the County Championship title in the play-offs at the end of the summer, and Berg believes he and his team-mates are in decent shape.

Northants have won two, lost two and drawn one of their first five games, but the group is still wide open.

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And Berg said: “I think we are playing very good cricket at the moment.

“I keep talking about first division cricket, having played at that level for 10 years.

“I am still trying to tell the guys, and they have learned very fast, is that all it takes is half hour in a four-day game to swing things around.

"We are still getting better at that, which is great, and we can go into the Lancashire game on a high, but also we do remember the last game we played against them.

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“It was a tough game, we know they are a tough team to play against, but I have always believed in our ground being a fortress.

“Hopefully they will come here and we will take the fight to them.”

Northants lost to Lancashire at Old Trafford last month, finally being bowled out with just 13 overs remaining in a game in which they were outplayed for long periods, but so nearly earned a draw.

“First division cricket especially, is all about not losing games and finding ways to get out of the game with points,” said Berg.

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“We missed out on that opportunity in the match at Lancashire, but it is still a learning curve for us.”

The match against Lancashire will also see the return of supporters to Wantage Road after 20 months away.

It will be great for everybody to take that first step back to normality, with all matches since 2019 having been played behind closed doors.

Berg is happy Northants fans will again get the chance to watch their team, but he also admits playing in front of empty stadia doesn’t really affect him.

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Asked if it has been hard to maintain his intensity with matches being played behind closed doors, Berg said: “I have certainly felt that with some of our players, but I am not one of those players.

“As much as I love having people supporting, being at the ground and watching cricket, I have never fed off the crowd.

"Even if there are big crowds in, I sort of blank them out.

“It is a simple job out there, and you focus on what your job is at the time.

“It is nice after a session to see the people in the crowd, and their acknowledgment, but it certainly hasn’t bothered me that much (that there have been no spectators).

“It is great for the game though that we will start getting crowds in.”