VIEW FROM THE BLUES: Big improvement as Northants give Somerset a scare

EXCELLENT WEEK - Adam Rossington
EXCELLENT WEEK - Adam Rossington
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After the empty beer cans and cheerleaders’ pom poms were swept up from the record-breaking T20 Blast victory for the Steelbacks last Friday, it was back to business in the championship on Saturuday for the weekly thrashing

But it was just 10 lashes this time around as the team produced a vastly improved performance against Somerset.

There is no doubt Friday night cricket has been a huge success and revitalised the Twenty20, but the Sunday championship matches have been a huge flop because of it.

Paying punters come Friday, not Sunday, and the four-day is bringing in nothing like the paying numbers 40-over cricket did on a Sunday.

If they continue this experiment next year they will need to move the 50-over cricket to the weekend, and championship where possible, to sustain division two cricket interest.

The fact there are no Steelbacks London Cup 50 over games on Sunday next month is bonkers.

Not that the ECB ever listen to the members!

That cracking victory against the Falcons on Friday should put a few on the gate tonight as two wins from the last three games may be enough for a Nat West Blast quarter-final, so get down to the ground to find out!

Stephen Peters was injured for the Somerset match, getting a much-needed break, so James Middlebrook picked up the dusty captain’s cap from the rubble to lead the boys out against Somerset, while Ben Duckett’s half-century of byes in his past two championship games earned him the drop.

Adam Rossington made his debut with the gloves after some sweet hitting in Friday’s Twenty20.

Somerset did as every other team has done in the last seven championship matches against Northants and raced towards 400, Marcus Trescothick getting the now perfunctory century from the opposition, and there was yet another record partnership in the innings, Tresco and Trego hitting 179 for the fifth wicket, beating the 168 set by Lea and Ingle at Taunton in 1937.

It was slightly better than recent matches as David Willey and Olly Stone bowled well in tandom, Stone being particularly sharp.

It’s still confusing why Graeme White isn’t in for Matt Spriegel on these drier pitches.

Spriegel is either a player making the most of his limited talents, or one failing to live up to his greater talents, as someone said at the ground.

I would say the former.

To bowl Somerset out for 375 wasn’t bad, and clearly Willey is beginning to make his mark on the bowling attack, as well as Craig Kieswetter’s face, hitting the South African an almighty blow through the grill.

Speaking to the photographers at the ground it appeared that the Somerset wicketkeeper may have ‘adjusted the grill’ just before the impact to see the ball better, which he certainly did!

Overnight and some local thieves had nipped over the wall and stolen a dozen of the club’s most expensive garden chairs, the sticky fingered Somerset bowlers also helping themselves to cheap Northants wickets at the mid summer sales.

Sometimes David Smith prides himself more with the corporate side of the ground than the playing side.

As expected the competitive pitch was far too much for the fragile Northants batting, the County slumping to 160 for eight, with only Rossington (48) and David Willey (53) getting on the front foot to try and get the follow on, all-rounder Gregory with a personal best six for 47.

The big worry is Rob Newton, his hand letting go of the bat every other ball, clearly protecting an injury.

Willey must be looking around at the wreckage all around him and thinking why exactly did he sign a three-year deal as Northants meekly fall away to the challenge of division one.

Northampton is in his heart and he preferred to net with Old Northamptonians the night before the big Twenty20 match last week to relax and prepare.

That’s a good sign he won’t leave just yet, but his England chances may stagnate at Wantage Road in another long spell in Division Two.

He is the best local born player since David Capel for me, and could get 1,000 runs and 50 wickets next year, if fit.

Although Willey couldn’t quite get the follow-on with some violent late hitting, it didn’t matter too much, with Trescothick, somewhat bizarrely, failing to enforce that follow on.

Northants average just 207 second up, and it was Somerset, not Northants, who were 72 for three at the close on day two.

Trescothick told reporters it was because his team had eight days of cricket in 11 and his bowlers needed a rest.

But they would probably have got a day and a half off if he had put Northants in again!

A slight plus was Northants bowling a team out twice as Trescothick set the home team 405 to win after Northants nipped them out for 249 (Jones 87), Ahzar’s three for 31 off 21 overs a real graft.

Northants again fell away in the chase as Somerset regularly found the edge of the bat on a pitch that was still refusing to lose its lime green tinge late on day three, testament to the groundsman for another excellent track.

Young James Kettleborough impressed with a boundary-packed 58, tight, strong and correct at the crease, and for a good two hours, very much dispatching the balls that deserved to go.

The final day was an unexpected cracker, a near-empty County Ground witnessing an amazing fightback as the last three wickets put on 234 from a down and out 119 for six.

Kyle Coetzer scored a welcome half-century and the confident Rossington took the match to lunch with 62 thought out runs.

Things got very interesting in the afternoon as Willey and Andrew Hall beat the ninth-wicket County record against Somerset of 98 from Barrick and Nutter, scored at the Peterborough Town Ground in 1952.

But with just 50-odd needed, Willey (53) played across it a bit to get out and Hall (66) nicked out soon after as the County fell 52 runs short at 351 all out which was a big relief for Trescothick, Somerset jumping and yelping in delight after bungling that follow on,

Northants still don’t have a batsman averaging more than 30 as their ninth defeat in 11 begins a welcome one-month break in the championship, but there was good stuff from Middlebrook as an inventive captain, Willey getting back to his best, and great runs from Rossington.