VIEW FROM THE BLUES: Poor Kent put to the sword on a lively NCG track

IN THE WICKETS - Rory KleinveldtIN THE WICKETS - Rory Kleinveldt
IN THE WICKETS - Rory Kleinveldt
The club may not want to admit former Chief Exec David Smith into the ground any more, but they have had to admit the fans have had enough of flat boring tracks and so the result pitches have finally arrived.

After the thrilling last-ball Steelbacks victory on Friday night at a packed Wantage Road against the swanky Lancashire Lightning, it’s been a positive week for David Ripley as the arid square finally delivered a convincing victory against a poor Kent side in the championship, topping off that excellent Twenty20 charge.

As the Steelbacks go into Friday night’s game at the gentile New Road against the Worcester Rapids, the season is suddenly alive and kicking.

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I do feel sorry for Smith being denied access to the ground last Friday evening after previous paid visits, and I think an apology is in order.

I know there is history between the new and old regime, but humiliating a father in front of his young son is not on.

Many dads reading about what happened would have reacted stronger than Smith did.

Information has come to hand on Smith’s departure from his job that he didn’t want to leave, but I will save that for another day as the team gains momentum.

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As far as Shahid Afridi goes, I understand there is unlikely to be a replacement, and that we are down to just 14 fit white-ball players for the next few games.

These guys are going to have to take us over the line somehow.

Back to the Championship, and Northants continue to give the ECB ammunition to rescind their first-class status in what will be the biggest shake up the game we will see in our lifetime by failing to have a ball bowled on day one of this week’s match.

If it’s not tiresome flat pitches that are deployed at Wantage Road, then it’s not playing under the most tenuous of weather excuses that irritates fans.

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It was bright enough and warm enough at times to play in the slightest of drizzle on Saturday, but umpires make cognitive radar decisions these days and, if something is coming they prevaricate and the covers stay on in playable conditions.

I think we need to be showing the ECB we want to compete in all competitions.

The feeling among some cricket fans is there may only be 14 counties by 2020, and we have to prove we are worth it on the pitch with results.

It’s all we can do as a ‘small county’.

Day two and a strange green plant was discovered growing on the square on Sunday.

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It was eventually identified as something called grass, the pitch looking as bumpy and troublesome as one of those greens at the recent controversial US Open Golf Championship. Even Rory Mcilroy would have four-putted on this one!

But Muhammed Azharullah and Rory Klienveldt loved it, taking five wickets each for 140 all out before tea - it was a fabulous toss for new dad Alex Wakely to win.

These two have taken the majority of the wickets this year, and one or two fans are eating humble pie over their criticism of big Rory.

The guy knows exactly where to bowl it to get wickets at his pace.

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Kent batsman Rob Key clearly wasn’t expecting a bowler’s pitch at Northampton and grumbled about lawnmowers being stolen, but something had to be done about those pitches and the fans welcomed the excitement and rare chance of victory.

A stalemate would have been the first time since 1986 Northants have drawn six straight home games.

Northants’ reply was positive and earned a 53-run lead by the close of day two, but with seven down.

A rare half-century from a battling Wakely earned Northants the lead alongside Rob Keogh’s excellent 68, there was a hint of at a match-winning hundred from the captain when he brought up his 50.

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But he was gone next ball and Northants began to crumble on the lively pitch after looking well set at 167 for three.

Richard Levi picked up the responsibility on day three and looks a better bat after that big hundred in early June.

The pitch was still doing things, but he helped himself to a 50 to guide the tail close to a second batting point and a 106 first innings lead.

You could see the home bowlers happy to be in the game for once.

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That lead was too much for a dispirited Kent side lacking an overseas player and up against motivated bowlers.

They were skittled for 168 second time around for Northants to wrap the game up in just the sixth session of play.

Kent have failed to reach 300 in any of their past six Championship innings, scoring 1,094 runs for the loss of 60 wickets, an average score of 182.

I’m pleased for Ollie Stone with that career-best five for 44, as he is clearly playing with strapped up fingers and in some pain, due to the lack of squad players available to Ripley.

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Rob Newton smacked 27 as the eight-wicket victory was secured with a day to spare, and Northants moving up the table.

We reckon that Newton and Ben Duckett are the shortest opening pair since Reynolds and Norwell!

Whether Northants will now be given the pitches to close the 19-point gap to second place is another matter.

Our seam attack clearly feels they can do it if given the chance, so come on Rips, let them loose!