VIEW FROM THE BLUES: Class act Anderson too good for County batsmen to handle

TOO GOOD - Lancashire's Jimmy Anderson in action against Northants this week (Picture: Dave Ikin)
TOO GOOD - Lancashire's Jimmy Anderson in action against Northants this week (Picture: Dave Ikin)

So, after a brave draw against defending county champions Durham and a hiding by the current favorites Yorkshire, it was the 2011 champions Lancashire and their super-duper seam attack next for the beleaguered Northants.

Because England’s first Test is as late as June, there is going to be no let-up as all of the best players in the country are going to be playing championship cricket for another month yet to try and impress with the new England coach.

The thumping defeat to Lancashire, the rather opaque search for an overseas player and more broken fingers than a Martin Scorcese movie, may have already resigned our fate.

The cricketing Gods do not want us in the first division, David Murphy, Olly Stone and Matthew Spriegel added to the injury list.

Maurice Chambers and David Willey took the brunt of the blame for Headingley, and were replaced by Ben Duckett and Stone.

But one man’s misfortune is another man’s gain, and this was a chance to see Stone, with plenty at the ground wanting to see him in from day one.

A club coach told me back in the winter they were happy with the bowling attack for this year as they got through on just seven bowlers last year.

But retrospective decisions like that always hurt, and we were always going to need more bodies this year.

Stone looks a real talent and the guy I think who will come through the most this season.

Duckett is clearly a classy young batsman, and an undiagnosed cracked kneecap for six months appeared to be the reason he didn’t start the season.

I must apologise to him, as I was also unaware of that diagnosis and may have been cheeky with my tweets to him over the winter on his premature England departure!

On the pitch, and it was a toss Stephen Peters had to win on a cloudy and dark morning, Lancashire’s all-powerful bowling side likely to have us out for fewer than 100 on a lively pitch if he didn’t.

But it was the unstable air that caused most of the trouble, and the visitors were back in the hut by tea, having been bowled out for 119.

All of the Northants bowlers were on top of their game, with Mohammad Azharullah finding extra pace for three for 35.

In the old days it was the quickest bowlers in county cricket that caused the collapses, but now it’s the art of late and reverse swing that batsmen struggle with on a tinge of green.

If it’s humid in England, you will probably see 15 wickets fall on day one, and 18 wickets went here.

Northants were in similar trouble on 133 for eight at the close.

Lancashire’s batting appears as fragile as ours, and these two are already looking contenders to be the bottom two clubs.

A rare visit/punishment to Wantage Road saw a pumped-up and chirpy Jamie Andersen take his second five-for of the season with his vicious deliveries swinging both ways, putting to bed any rumours he needs a permanent rest from Test cricket after the chastened Ashes Tour.

He was unplayable.

Spriegel seems at home at number four and scoring runs like a squirrel gathering nuts for their dray, and again the man here with 62 to close the innings on 164 all out on the second day, about par for the conditions.

He is not the most graceful of batsmen but effective in that holding role Alex Wakely filled when the pressure is not on to score quick runs, his downfall last season.

Kyle Coetzer is shaping up to be the fall guy when David Sales is fit.

With Lancashire at 130 for five second time around by tea, it was game on.

But the sun came out late on, and Jos Buttler took the initiative with some one-day style acceleration and shot selection, exactly what was needed and pressing his test claims to old boss Peter Moores with a half-century.

For Northants, the injuries kept coming with Stone bashing his fingers up, Spriegel popping his finger and Murphy chipping a middle digit.

Andrew Hall was again called on to be the water carrier with three well-earned scalps on a pitch playing much easier.

We are getting close to being unable to fulfil second XI fixtures now, with Willey the only contracted player at Campbell Park this week.

Lancashire’s 285 all out (Buttler 75, Smith 54) proved the boys can take 20 wickets in this league, and set up that exciting 240 run chase, Stone taking four wickets despite that cracked digit.

A total like that with no time issues means both sides have to go for it, and so the slips are in and gaps in the field for the bats to exploit.

But at 77 for five, heads were down as one or two old boys shuffled off home to watch the snooker!

A Mexican Wave was needed to rally the troops with flat caps, tartan flasks and walking sticks going high in the air!

So step forward James Middlebrook and young Duckett, yet gain the batsmen with the most patience and arguably the best techniques in the current team, closing the day with an unbeaten 70 partnership.

When you look at Duckett, he oozes confidence and elegance at the crease and is sure to be a very good player.

Middlebrook justified his sixth-placed ranking in the national MVP table with the highest score of the match with 89.

But it was not to be on the final day, and Anderson cleaned Northants up with another five-for (match figures 10-89) and a predictable 60-run defeat to see Northants rock bottom of the table.

They only needed to nudge two runs an over for a while, but were caught in two minds.

The fans remain patient though and have no doubt accepted the championship will have to be sacrificed to get a strong 11 fit for this month’s Twenty20.