VIEW FROM THE BLUES: There is hope after an encouraging week for Northants

STAR MAN - Graeme White celebrates with Steven Crook after the pair combined to dismiss Birmingham Bears' Rikki Clarke (Picture: Kirsty Edmonds)
STAR MAN - Graeme White celebrates with Steven Crook after the pair combined to dismiss Birmingham Bears' Rikki Clarke (Picture: Kirsty Edmonds)

Great weather, a good crowd and a big week for Northants as an excellent home T20 Blast win over the Birmingham Bears and a battling draw at Lord’s have hinted the team is done with getting stuffed.

They only need read the weekly social media from the fans to be motivated to improve.

It looks like they have had a sit down and words have been exchanged, and the players have decided it’s time to stand up and be counted.

The people are still coming out for the Blast, and although I had given up on the Steelbacks chances they haven’t, our home record pretty good over the last year.

It didn’t start well as the Steelbacks crawled to 90 for seven on what looked a cracking batting surface with a tasty short boundary on offer, grumblings of ‘here we go again’ from the punters as we suffered familiar lazy dismissals.

Ben Duckett has gone through the whole range of ways to foolishly get out this season, and with wicketkeeper Adam Rossington coming in on loan from Middlesex, I suggest Duckett sorts out his looseness at the crease sharpish!

Richard Levi and David Willey try to show off together opening, and one always gets out cheaply and starts the wobble, with Levi going the first ball of the night this time.

It is time to split them for me.

The ball didn’t want to come on to the bat true, and Graeme White had the right idea and closed his eyes and whacked it late on, his 34 from 12 balls saw the the Steelbacks close on 139 for eight.

Most of the time these games are won in one or two big overs.

White must be scratching his head why he hasn’t been used more this season and was in the mood to make that point.

I don’t think he will be batting number nine next week, three scrummy sixes finding the stands.

The Bears never really got going and were in a similar pickle at 78 for six by halfway, all the Northants bowlers doing a great job.

Getting the classy Shoaib Malik for 47 was the critical dismissal.

Willey is getting stronger with the ball every week and there are signs Azha has got that yorker going as he took two for 24.

Even Wendell was on top form with a lap of the ground to celebrate each wicket, although we suspect he was chasing the sexy cheerleaders!

Steven Crook and Olly Stone were bang on with sharp accurate seam, and White sealed the man of the match award with two for 25.

But this match was won by 15 runs because of the exceptional fielding, nothing going down and the reply strangled early on.

This was the Steelbacks we remember from last season.

I still don’t think we will make the quarter-finals, but the fans went home happy and will be back soon and that’s what really matters.

Headquarters earlier in the week with Stephen Peters still captain, and I feel the championship campaign is all but written off now.

Middlesex old boy James Kettleborogh came in for his Northants County Championship debut.

He was in for David Sales after his ankle was blown up on the soggy Northants minefield of an outfield in the rained off Twenty20 last week, Richard Levi and Ian Butler were absent without leave, and Willey was rested.

It was pretty grim stuff as Peters bizarrely chose to bowl, Middlesex making 488 for nine declared.

I don’t know if the enemy took pity on us with their declaration at tea but it would have been a record six first-class 500s conceded in a row.

An unbeaten 154 from ex-NCL man Malan was the highlight, with Northants doing the best they could with the ball as there was nothing too wayward.

Thankfully there were no 300 partnerships!

Northants have been responsible for 30 per cent of all the other teams wins in the division so far, and Middlesex were quickly looking to move that stat closer to 33 per cent this match as Northants slumped to 87 for three by the close of day two, and there was another low score for captain Peters.

So step forward young Kettleborough, the man the fans have been grumbling for a while to be given a chance, and he took it with his 73 on debut, clearly the 22-year-old held back in Middlesex seconds.

In fact, both Middlesex old boys did the damage, Crook with that maiden first-class century on 131.

Crook has had the look of a guy carrying a secret injury, and this score was very welcome.

Believe it or not, but there was a record partnership for Northants,

Crooky and Hall (75) beating the 143 for the seventh wicket against Middlesex made by Richard Williams and Duncan Wild back in 1987 at Lord’s by one run.

That 384 comfortably beat the follow-on and was Northants’ highest score of the season.

If this is hope I will take it.

Rob Keogh joined the casualty with another broken digit.

In the second innings, captain Eoin Morgan’s 81 not out in 199 for five declared set Northants that silly 305 to win off two sessions, conservative to say the least from the next England captain against a team who can bat barely 70 overs second time up.

But knowing you only have to bat a short time proved incentive enough for Northants on a dead pitch and a welcome handshake draw 46 overs later and Northants’ dreadful run was over.