Northants’ poor start to the campaign slipped to a new low this week with what can only be described as an embarrassing defeat at Trent Bridge.
This was comfortably the worse championship performance since the Lancashire match last season.
The boys look distracted by the NatWest Twenty20 defence and, like Derbyshire last season, also look content to accept they are not good enough for the top league, and so it’s not their fault.
Okay, they haven’t had a top-class overseas bowler or the irresistible energy of David Willey with bat and ball, but this was poor, especially as rain washed out big chunks of the game.
Alongside James Middlebrook, that man called rain has been our big hope in the championship to stop the early hidings.
I had hoped reduced games would keep us in the game and the first day wash out at Trent Bridge was very welcome.
The boys needed some sort of momentum going into the Twenty20, and some concentration and a batting draw would have helped.
Notts had won seven and drawn five of their previous 12 home Championship games against Northants going into the game.
Northants were boosted with the return of David Sales and the news of the signings of Kiwis Ian Butler and Neil Wagner to cover for the season; not exactly the glamour overseas box office the fans were hoping for, but new bodies all the same.
Wagner is infamous for his five wickets in an over, while Butler, wlthough not having played international cricket for a while, is reasonably fast and certainly experienced at county cricket.
These two will have a lot of work to do to get it all back on track.
With the opening four sessions at Trent Bridge wiped out to that rain and murk, Northants were inserted, which looked a bad call at 107 without loss.
But, as we have been seeing all season, the collapse came and the superior bowler in the opposition, here Aussie Peter Siddle, turned the game back to the home side with some excellent pace bowling.
We are going to meet guys like this every match.
But there was some poor batting from the visitors, and I think this week’s Nat West Blast became a distraction for the team.
Middlebrook (47) and Stephen Peters (88) got the runs against Notts, two players not likely to feature heavily in the Twenty20.
The guys most likely to play are already playing NatWest Blast slogs, Steven Crook in particular has been poor so far with his shot selection.
The players don’t seem to want to leave the ball alone and dig in for partnerships.
I was amazed when Middlebrook didn’t win the player of the month for Northants, as he has single-handedly stopped the championship team falling completely off the edge.
I’m wondering if we weren’t defending Twenty20 champions we may well have had a much stronger and focused championship start.
It’s fully understandable why the players are looking forward to the razzmatazz, but still.
Last season, Northants would recover from poor starts with their deep batting.
But no more.
They were hurried out for the second highest score of the season, a paltry 248, not even enough for a second bonus point.
Notts, on the other hand, were on the ball, battling hard from 30 for three to 259 for five by close on day three, Taylor grinding the runs out the way they needed to be with 78.
At the other end Riki Wessels smashed some gorgeous shots all around the ground with that terrific century, Crook again the weakest link.
It was Wessels Jnr’s first championship match against his old employers, and he looked determined to cream that ton.
In fact, his need to punish Northants for not loving him intensified on the final day, as he launched a brutal assault on all concerned to double his overnight score as Notts chased a menacing lead.
You never really know the real reasons why quality players leave Wantage Road, and although better wages plays a big part, Northants are known as the laid-back county and maybe it’s simply ambition of the bigger ground and the greater international cap opportunity that moves them on.
Wessels blasting that 158 achieved an unlikely fifth batting point for Notts – and what turned out to be a fatal 168 lead.
He went from 100 to 150 in just 20 balls with a total of eight sixes and 14 fours as Notts posted 409 for eight declared.
What followed we already know, Northants unable to last 80 overs against first division bowling, skittled out for 151 with an hour to go.
Siddle did what Graham Onions, Jimmy Anderson and Jack Brooks have already done, and overpowered what is a feeble second division team once again.
This was unacceptable, and they look a team more interested in reliving last year’s one-day heroics than being competitive in the top league of English cricket.
We now know rain won’t save us either.
Let’s hope this shocking form doesn’t feed into tonight’s game at Headingly.
Good luck Steelbacks, as we are going to need it.