VIEW FROM THE BLUES: Is this really the best the Northants players can do?
Over the years I have got stuck into the Northants team on behalf of the fans for woeful performances in division two because I knew they could do better.
It’s all we ask. Do the best you can, as you did last year.
In division one, I knew the team assembled by David Ripley and the chief exec David Smith would do nothing in the championship, and so pointless to boo and heckle.
We know some perhaps haven’t got the ability for this level.
But we can only hope one or two stand up and say ‘I want to recover my dignity’ in the coming weeks after yet another horrendous defeat in the LV= Championship, this time at the hands of Yorkshire.
It’s just one win in the calendar year now in the LVC, and none at all without Trent Copeland.
Northants are as broken as George Groves’ nose after yet another Carl Froch style haymaker!
After a mixed bag week in Twenty20, it’s clear the appetite to put up a fight in the championship has all but gone.
We can’t compete in any facet of the four-day game in division one.
Ripley reverted to a semi result pitch for the Yorkshire game after the Middlesex capitulation on the previous flat one, and that switch back may suggest he is starting to receive pressure from above to get a win.
In April, David Smith is quoted as saying that ‘staying in the First Division was the priority’.
But the club’s spending on the first-class team didn’t really match that high hope, just Maurice Chambers coming in.
Richard Levi on 12th-man duties in a match he couldn’t even play in this week summed up that unbalanced budgetary approach.
Northants’ only piece of skill in the game was winning the toss in overcast conditions on a greenish top, with Yorkshire collapsing to 137 all out just as the mighty Saints clinched that stupendous title on Saturday.
But Northants had managed to lose to Lancashire at the County Ground when the visitors scored just 119 first up, so we weren’t celebrating like everybody was at Twickenham.
The reply with the sun coming though was a little better at 251 all out, and a rare batting point, Ben Duckett and James Middlebrook with fifties.
Yes, little Duckett does throw his innings away with crazy shot selection at critical times (here a reverse sweep!), but he is going to be a player andNorthants’ captain in the next few years with his attitude and confidence.
Middlebrook is the other good thing in the championship team right now.
We shall be called Middlebrookshire from now on in!
A returning Jack Brooks to the County Ground conceded almost half of the innings runs with four for 78, but he is getting the old magic back.
He was right to go when he did.
With Dickie Bird on Wantage Road book-signing duty, the Yorkshire batsmen were in the mood to show Northants how to play first division cricket in the second innings.
Don’t worry how long it takes to get the runs, just don’t be rushed and don’t slog out.
The runs will come as the bowlers tire, and boy did they come, and boy did we tire.
The opening stand of 375 without loss equalled the effort of Rob White and Mark Powell’s Wantage Road opening record set back in 2002, before Lees gave it away with the pair’s first false shot in three sessions.
It was also the highest partnership on the ground for a visiting team for any wicket, and the second highest against Northants for any wicket, anywhere, just behind the 383 for the second wicket by Bowley and Tate for Sussex in 1921.
It was a master class of patient and intelligent opening batting, a century each for Lyth (230) and Lees (138), the pitch drying dramatically every session.
The balding Lyth had a full head of hair when he took to the crease!
Finch, and then young Leaming’s maiden first-class fifty, ground Northants’ nose into the dust for 546 for three declared.
Lyth’s superb 230 was the highest score for a Yorkshire player on the ground, and Yorkshire aree already looking like County Champions to me.
It’s easy to blame the Northants attack for not taking any wickets on the flat ones this season, but they are simply not good enough for this division and could only bowl to contain in the hope of two days of rain.
No, I lay the blame firmly at the batsmen’s feet, as many of them capable at this level if they just apply themselves.
Some know their time is up though, and are going through the motions, with David Sales and Andrew Hall staring at the gold watch, and not the ball.
But for Matt Spriegel and Rob Newton, the coach is being really patient and they really should deliver more to return that faith.
I suspect David Smith is quietly fuming at Sales after giving him one more chance at the top flight.
The senior players are leaving the kids to be slaughtered out there.
An overnight 43 for three tumbled to 160 all-out, with our frustrated chief executive using a four-letter word beginning with C and ending with P (fortunately) to the blue seats to describe the performance.
As an ex-player, and gritty opener, it’s hurting Smith as much as the fans that the batsmen can’t, or won’t, dig in.
Yorkshire’s fields were as intimidating as their bowlers’ attitude to win, and the home team’s batsmen were rabbits caught in the headlights.
They are now in a cycle of despair, Spriegel out first ball of the final day without offering a shot summing it up.
Northants have failed to pass 300 in 11 straight innings now, and there are still no centuries.
It was Yorkshire’s first win for 50 years when scoring fewer than 150 in the first innings.
It was horrendous record breaking stuff.
The Steelbacks’ amazing Twenty20 win seems a long time ago.