VIEW FROM THE BLUES: Steelbacks prove there’s life after Copeland

MAN IN FORM - Steven Crook
MAN IN FORM - Steven Crook

When Trent Copeland left us he got a lovely leaving card from the fans - but it was not one the coach and captain wanted to sign!

The Aussie may be gone (for now), but he has left a legacy, and that is the joy of winning, and it is now four in a row in the YB40, with the latest coming against Sussex at Arundel last Sunday.

I have banged on about how this competition is there for the taking because of the apathy towards it, so why not got for it in its final throes?

You never know!

Quite rightly, David Ripley decided to rest a few on Sunday with the Lancashire match in mind, David Sales crying off with a bad back at the last minute, young Christian Davis replacing Andrew Hall.

With a decent Northants following considering the weather, the Steelbacks hit first as the clouds disappeared over the idyllic castle walls to the snap of the clapperboard.

They made 191 for six on a slow pitch which looked tantalisingly short considering the boundaries on offer, of which only 13 were accrued.

Alex Wakely played another one of his measured championship-style innings with 69 from 121 balls, which proved to be the correct approach, and along with the impressive Ben Duckett with a run-a-ball 47 not out they set up what turned out to be a decent total.

The spinners were always controlling the run rate, and any sort of wild slog and you would have been all out inside 35 overs.

Sussex’s reply was spectacularly bad early on as they slumped to one for three and then 32 for five, which was not what we were expecting without Copeland.

Steven Crook took over the Aussie strike role with ease, before Matt Spriegel came on and pushed the game back the Sharks’ way.

This is a worry as Spriegel is seen as an important and bespoke one-day player for the Steelbacks, and his bowling is looking as poor as his batting.

But David Willey returned to ping out Yardy (53), the excellent Mohamad Azharullah bowled Brown for 40, and the tail was shot out as the Sharks were dismissed for 128.

This was a huge win, proves the squad is good, and that the players believe in coach and captain.

It also suggests we may have a better mindset going into next weeks Twenty20.

If you have just lost your star bowler and two best batsmen to injury, then Leicestershire are the team you need to be playing next in the LV= Championship, as was the case last week.

It was Lee Daggett, not Azharullah, to replace Copeland, which was a surprise to some.

Perhaps Rips went with Dags because he can bowl long economic spells to Aza’s five-over bursts, and so offer more control for Alex Wakely.

I would have chosen the Pakistani as he is pretty sharp, and that’s what batsmen hate the most but it’s hard to criticise Ripley this season.

With drizzle around, being put in on a tennis ball lime-green Grace Road strip was another break, and with Northants being 320 for four at the close in warm sunshine was testament to that bad decision.

Another failure from Spriegel (7) and captain Wakely (18) had the game even at 200- for four at tea, and I fear Alex is not able to concentrate on both batting and captaincy, something he has also admitted.

Spriegel, alas, looks like another Matt Cassar, his best scoring shot the nick to third man.

Sales scraped 30-odd but looks a shadow of the player he was, and he is rather lucky that Ripley doesn’t have a fit replacement.

But it would prove to be Kyle Coetzer’s day as he scored his seventh first-class hundred.

Coetzer is a player that makes the most of what he has, and he piled on 175 with Andrew Hall (65).

The South African successfully crashed on for the fourth bonus point and his third straight hundred (105), but lessons have to be learned on sacrificing the innings for the tricky fifth batting point, and so Northants fell just short at 395 for five.

You have to say Hall has improved dramatically on last year.

Coetzer had his eyes on the bigger prize, and he got it by making 219 to complete his first double century.

He shared in another 100 partnership with James Middlebrook (84), who put on 92 with Steven Crook, with a typical whirlwind 49 not out coming from the Adelaide boy.

Crook is a potential player of the season for me, and is now top of the division two batting averages.

The total of 567 for seven declared was Northants’ first ever 500-plus total at Grace Road, surprisingly.

With the forecast rain washing out the final session, there were grumbles in the away support that Wakely should have stopped at 500.

I didn’t agree.

The wicket was pretty good and Leicestershire would score at least 300 without Copeland to stop them.

That means scoreboard pressure will be Wakely’s main weapon from now on without Copeland.

If this team really clicks it could top Northants’ record score of 781 for seven if given the pitch, as they score so quickly.

Two sessions were washed out on the penultimate day as Leicestershire closed on 142 for three, and with half the final day also going down the drain, hands were shaken on 233 for four to end Northants’ run of straight bowling bonus points.

You could say we were missing Copeland, but that was nobody’s fault, and so we have to move on.

Perhaps Azharullah’s extra pace could have had them five down earlier, possibly.

Willey, alas, didn’t do great with the new cherry and will be wise to read a blog in an Aussie newspaper about Copeland, and how he talked about wanting to master the Duke ball in English conditions.

What he points out is the key is not to over work the ball with swing and seam here, especially on good pitches, but just to get it go a little bit.

That is perhaps Willey’s biggest fault line right now, as he puffs his chest out and tries to do much with the red ball against the better batsmen with that big seam, bounce and swing.

But I’m sure Willey doesn’t want or need advice on how to bowl from me!