Skipper Rossington aiming high as Northamptonshire prepare for top flight return
"You want to set out to try and win the Championship, but you also have to be realistic with who you are competing against"
Skipper Adam Rossington says Northamptonshire will be aiming high when they take their place in the top flight of the LV= Insurance County Championship next summer.
The County will be playing Division One cricket for the first time since the summer of 2014, having claimed promotion the last time a full regular season was completed, in 2019.
Due to Covid-19, the past two years has seen the Championship played out in a three-conference format, but in 2022 it reverts to a two-division system - and Northants will be in with the big boys.
They will be competing against the likes of reigning champions Warwickshire, Essex, who won the title in 2019 and 2020, Yorkshire, Lancashire and Surrey.
Gloucestershire, Hampshire, Kent and Somerset make up the 10-team section, which is going to be a real test for new head coach John Sadler and his players.
The last time the County played in the top flight proved to be a chastening experience for all concerned at Wantage Road, as Northants finished rock-bottom having failed to win any of their 16 matches, losing 12 times.
Rossington is determined to ensure the team will be more competitive in 2022, and although he is realistic about where Northants lie in the pecking order when it comes to club size and resources, he is positive about the team’s chances.
“It is very exciting,” said the 28-year-old. “We always wanted to have that crack at division one, and we weren’t sure whether it was going to happen or not.
“Now it has come about, the lads can’t wait.
“It is a big year for the club because we have not managed to stay in that division.
“We obviously want to finish as high up as we can and it is getting that balance right.
“You want to set out to try and win the Championship, but you also have to be realistic with who you are competing against, and some of the bigger squads and bigger clubs.
“It is basically us finding a way.
“We are going to try and finish as high as we can, because you don’t want to start the season saying you are just trying to avoid getting relegated.
“You never know what can happen, and you only have look at what somebody like Leicester City did with the football (they won the Premier League title against all the odds in 2016).
“At the start of that season I bet they weren’t talking about winning the Premier League, so you just never know.”
Next summer will be Rossington’s first crack at top flight cricket since the back end of 2014, when he played for struggling Northants having joined on loan from Middlesex.
And although it proved to be a difficult time for the team, it was a fruitful period for Rossington, who performed well, scoring a century and two 50s to finish comfortably top of the club’s batting charts with a more than handy average of 44.
He also obviously enjoyed the scenery at the County Ground, as he would sign for the club on a permanent basis a few months later - and he’s still there seven years on!
Looking back to 2014, the hard-hitting batsman said: “I joined for the last six games of that season, and I enjoyed it.
"I think it was only the second game I played that it was confirmed that we were already relegated, so it was a bit of an interesting one!
“But personally that went quite well for me, and I think as a player you always want to be playing in the top leagues.
“You want to challenge yourselves against the best and I think we have got a great opportunity now as players to see where we are at, and especially as a team as well.
“We want to see if we can compete with some of those clubs that have been established in that division for a few years now.”
His chance to play in the top flight has perhaps been a long time coming, but Rossington still has personal ambition, and he is aiming to show what he can do against the best that English cricket has to offer.
And he is confident his Northants team-mates, who will include new overseas recruit, the New Zealander Will Young, can do the same.
“When you play in division one, your weight of runs there probably carry a bit more when you are at that level,” said Rossington.
“If you can do it against the best bowling attacks then that can only be a good thing, and it is the same for some of the lads with the ball.
“If they are taking 40 or 50 wickets in division one, then again that can only reflect well on them.
“Hopefully in the team we can get a couple of lads putting their hands up and getting 1,000 runs or 50 or 60 wickets, and then we would be in a good place.”
Rossington accepts that one area where Northants definitely have to improve on is their consistency levels.
The 2021 Championship season saw the team turn in many good performances, and they missed out on qualification for the end of season play-offs by the narrowest of margins, with defeats at Yorkshire and Lancashire proving costly.
But there were also some matches where the team way off the pace, none more so than the final game of the campaign when they lost at Essex in little more than a day, having been bowled out for just 81 and 45!
“With the best teams, their best performances and worst performances are never too far apart,” said Rossington.
“That is something we have probably been a bit guilty of, where some days we have been very good but then we have also had some very bad days.
“I think it is about trying to narrow those bad days down and trying to make sure that, you might lose the odd session here and there in four-day cricket, but you don’t want to be losing two or three on the bounce.
“If you do that then you are always behind the eight ball, so for us it is about finding that consistency of lads putting their hands up regularly enough that we can put in the performances as a team.
“So if it’s not one person doing it, it might need three or four lads chipping in with 50 or 60, and getting you to that score.
“Or the bowlers all taking two or three wickets, and you want to have those real teams days around the special individual efforts.
“If we can just get a bit more consistency, then that would be great.
“I think we only missed out on qualification by a point or something last season, and we lost that game at Yorkshire by one run, and if you win that you are in a different spot.
“Because when we then play Yorkshire at home you are not trying to chase a result, you are more in the box seat.
“So we will just be searching for more consistency.”
The fixtures for the 2022 season have yet to be announced, but Northants will be playing 14 matches.
The Championship schedule is expected to be confirmed by the ECB in January.