Northants ready to give Durham 'very tough' few days at County Ground

Northants were winners at Leicestershire last week (picture: Peter Short)
Northants were winners at Leicestershire last week (picture: Peter Short)

Northants can take a big stride towards Specsavers County Championship promotion when they host Durham in a fixture that starts on Monday.

And head coach David Ripley says if his side's form continues, their opponents are in for a 'very tough' week at the County Ground.

Northants’ victory at Leicestershire last week took them second in the table and 14 points ahead of Durham in fourth with two matches to play.

Gloucestershire, currently occupying the third and final promotion place, are Northants' final opponents, at Bristol.

And Ripley said: “Coming to the end of the season these are the types of games we wanted to be involved in.

“Durham have been playing well and winning matches so it’s looking like a cracking match.

“But if we play the cricket we’ve played over the last few matches they’ll have a very tough game.

"Promotion is in our hands so the scenario is very simple for us.”

Victory at Grace Road brought up a significant milestone for Northants seamer Ben Sanderson, who passed 50 wickets in the Championship for the third time in four seasons.

“He’s a phenomenal performer day in and day out,” Ripley said.

“His red-ball bowling is unbelievable - it’s not just the wickets but how many times he beats the bat. We’re very pleased he’s one of ours.

“And what I’ve liked about him this year too is that he’s got himself in our 50-over team and the T20 team.

"He’s a competitive guy who wants to play all formats and rolls his sleeves up to do anything we ask him too.”

​Gareth Berg, who joined on loan from Hampshire, and New Zealander Doug Bracewell both impressed at Grace Road.

“Gareth has been ticking over playing second team cricket but has just been practicing so his skill is improving,” said Ripley.

“And Doug was obviously rusty in the first innings because he’s only in pre-season mode - in New Zealand they’re just gearing up for the start of their domestic season.

"But he really wanted the opportunity to play and he bowled very well and showed good pace in the second innings.”

But Ripley still wants his side to be more ruthless when on top.

With a chance to bat Leicestershire out of the game, Northants slipped and only took a modest first-innings advantage.

“Division one sides put you to bed from those positions and that was our only hiccup,” he said.

“We talked a lot about scoring big hundreds - a lot of our centuries are around the 110 mark and that’s not quite what you want for winning four-day matches. You need someone to go on and make a match-defining score.

“We just need to be a little more ruthless and think back to when we were last in division one and how we were nailed a few times when sides got on top of us with the bat and didn’t give us a sniff and that’s what we’re striving for.”