View From The Blues: Temptation is to throw out the baby with the bathwater

TOUGH TIMES - this has been a bad summer for NorthantsTOUGH TIMES - this has been a bad summer for Northants
TOUGH TIMES - this has been a bad summer for Northants
This year’s domestic cricket calendar has been all about Friday night Twenty20 cricket.

The ECB counter and say they wanted Sunday championship cricket to boost championship crowds. I say they simply had nowhere else to put it, destroying the more profitable Sunday League cricket fans enjoy in the process.

This meant the new 50-over tournament was grubber-kicked to the end of the season to see how it would fall. So far, Northants have failed to pick up much loose ball, another London Cup defeat under lights this week.

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The 40-over was always a difficult sell under the lights at Wantage Road and a 2pm start for the 50-over does not make it any easier. It’s just not a novelty any more.

Unless the Steelbacks make the London Cup quarter-final, this experiment to play their matches in the week will have been a huge bust.

The Steelbacks did not warm up well for this week’s opponents - the Yorkshire Vikings - with an extremely embarrassing defeat to New Zealand A last week, conceding 425 off 50, the fourth highest one-day score in English cricket history.

The last 25 overs went for more than 300! The bowling attack on show was as rubbish as their figures and extremely inappropriate for this fixture, a pointless exercise for all.

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We need to learn stuff in these friendlies so we are ready for the domestic one-day challenges, not lock the main gates to discourage spectators and throw in unpaid second-teamers.

It was a waste of a very good pitch, no doubt the one Paul put aside for the home Twenty20 quarter-final that never was.

The Steelbacks have a poor record under those midweek Wantage Road lights in the 40-45 over games over the years and continued it here, another thumping defeat. Rather ironically rain chipped off 12 overs for a 38-over game, so no real change from last year’s format for the 4pm start. I believe this was the first ever scheduled domestic floodlit 50-over game at Northampton, but a not so historic performance.

The Steelbacks hit first with the Vikings bowling off shorter runs with plenty of shoulder to induce more swing and seam to get the most out of the new white ball for 17-2.

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But Rossington was again the man looking to make things work with 75 front-foot runs and nine chunky boundaries after good powerplay work from Levi (34), Northants sitting well at 163-3 off 30 overs.

But Duckett (45) couldn’t rev up the tail enough (although he did hit a rare six!) and just 46 came off the last eight overs and that was never enough, the Steelbacks batting line-up simply having no muscle down the order.

We may have got a competitive score off the full 50 but there was still nothing from the likes of Spriegel, Peters and Coetzer when it matters.

The excellent Lees and Lythe set about the 210 target with great confidence, their 195 the highest-ever opening List A partnership on the County Ground, beating Niall O’Brien and Stephen Peters’ 179 in 2008 and the highest against Northants for the same wicket on any ground, beating the 187 by Pritchard and Stephenson for Essex at Chelmsford in 1993.

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It was supreme batting from a pair who have been doing this all season but you could see the home team’s shoulders and heads were down after just 10 overs and never in it, a reasonable crowd for the midweek game too timid and guilty-feeling to boo after last year’s heroics.

David Willey being away with the Lions didn’t help and the overseas player vacuum with Wagner not due until next week left the bowling looking extremely lightweight on another excellent pitch from the groundsmen.

Lees 102 off 85 balls looks like he is an imminent pick for England, able to play all formats by the looks and has all the shots. How Northants could do with an opener who scores runs.

The Steelbacks now have to perform well in the next two matches or the ground will be empty under the lights Monday night and the season over.

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Maybe the rain forecast and two points from those two games is our best bet? If that is the case then will we ever see new overseas player Wagner who is due here next week when there is nothing to play for?

Azharullah bowled complete garbage not for the first time this season and other bowlers’ figures only rescued by a leisurely wobble at the end for the six-wicket defeat.

Hate to say it, but Spriegel was the pick of the bowlers. There is even talk he is playing every game so to be championship captain next year. That doesn’t bare thinking about.

There is also talk of every player over 35 out of contract next year, not being offered one. As I said before, the temptation is now huge for David Smith (chief executive) to throw out the baby with the bathwater.