VIEW FROM THE BLUES: Durham trip proves to be a worthwhile exercise

BACK IN THE RUNS - Northants batsman David Sales
BACK IN THE RUNS - Northants batsman David Sales
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Congratulations to the Cobblers on staying up! But I fear that after the club’s third relegation battle in four years, the new hotel will be the only thing going up any day soon!

As for Northamptonshire CCC, we are totally dependent on ECB handouts and so permanently working within a tight budget, especially in the two divisional system, which is geared up to help the Test match ground counties, where that sponsorship and TV money comes from which we depend on.

We are down to the bare bones, and those bones are still breaking.

There were six batsmen carrying injuries going into the knockabout university game up at Durham MCCU.

It was certainly a confidence-building fixture we needed, but one the squad could have done without.

Because of the injury crisis, the net was cast wide just to put an 11 out with David Sales and James Kettleborough returning early.

April has not been kind to Sales in recent years, and so he will have been happy to have a warm week in May against student bowling to find some form, which he and Kettleborough did with a fifty and a hundred respectively.

Kettleborough was surplus to requirements at Middlesex purely because of the talent pool available, and had to make the move to Northants.

From what I have seen of him he looks very solid and confident and first-class standard from the off, clearly being held back in the bright lights of London.

Ben Duckett chipped in with an elegant 44 for 318 for seven declared.

I thought it was a little harsh sending Rob Newton up north as he also has a chipped thumb and doesn’t really need another whack on it, but I’m sure he asked to go to find form.

If Northants do bring in an overseas batsman, with Kyle Coetzer now one-day captain Newton may struggle to hold down a place.

Bowling and late-order batting wise, Northants were unrecognisable.

Batsman Saif Zaib, who is just 15, was thrown in alongside a young keeper from Glamorgan seconds called Gary Knight and South African bowler Chad Barret, who had a couple of games for the MCC.

High Wycombe’s Zaib had played for Northants IIs at Horsham last summer holidays but would have had to get a letter from the headmaster to play here.

It maybe worth giving Lee Daggett a call after the Saints finish for the Twenty20 if things get any worse!

I hear Rob White blazed 70-odd and took four for 40 with his devilish leggies for Old Northamptonians last weekend, so you never know! Anybody could be picked the way it’s going.

Northants have shown with the overseas player debacle that they are no longer an attractive option with lucrative T20 competitions going on elsewhere around the world.

Why slog out a whole season here for 80 grand when you can get that for two weeks work in the West Indies?

Jack Goode was the fifth Northants player registered especially for the match at Durham.

I understand in the recent truncated seconds game at Milton Keynes, David Wiley was the only player on the pitch contracted and paid by Northants.

The students were whipped out sharpish for 114 on day two, which was not a bad effort by the bowlers, Maurice Chambers getting back in coach David Ripley’s good books with three for 27.

The Durham University set-up has produced three England captains in recent years, and so is not to be taken lightly, as Andrew Strauss, Nasser Hussain and Paul Collingwood all alumni.

The red-brick Durham is seemingly taking over Oxbridge as the seat of learning for a future in professional cricket.

The Racecourse is also a lovely venue, and I quite fancied watching the game, but there were at least 11 changes on my United Counties Bus Rover ticket, so it wasn’t to be. By the time I’d have got there the team would be leaving for Northampton!

I decided to watch the rather excellent women’s Friends Life inaugural professional cycle tour that swept through the town on Wednesday instead.

Rips didn’t enforce the 125 follow-on, and Northants wisely chose to hit again to find some sort of form with the bat.

At 75 for five with showers around that didn’t look so clever, but young Saib scored an impressive half-century for the declaration at 149 for six.

Durham were never going to get the 376 target and were duly dispatched second time around for 194, Bishnoi getting half with his belligerent 99.

There were four wickets for Greame White and three more for Barrett, who took six in the match, and the 159-run victory was sealed.

I believe this is once again a first-class fixture and great experience for all.

I can’t recall a 15-year-old getting a 50 for Northants first team since Kevin Innes, so Zaib is one to watch.

The plusses have to be that Sales is back and getting runs, and he is a man born to play at the top level, which is what the team is seriously lacking.

Don’t discount him getting 1,000 runs now he is fit as he really is something to see when he is in form.