Chris Gayle may have stolen many of the headlines this week, but one success story that has seemingly slipped under the radar is that of Northants’ upturn in fortune.
The start of a new County Cricket season often promises to be a turbulent time for Northants fans, but this year has seen a major reversal, with the side sitting comfortably at the top of Division Two.
Sweeping changes have been made in the last two years, with Stephen Peters replacing David Sales as club captain. Although Sales has provided many years of service, his frequent knee problems presented a complex headache for selectors, and since stepping into the role, Peters has provided the continuity and stability that the Steelbacks had been missing.
Sales, meanwhile has been able to concentrate on fitness, and has been reaping the rewards, batting more confidently than ever. The Wantage Road side also swapped faces at the helm in the summer of 2012, with assistant coach David Ripley stepping up to replace David Capel.
Like Capel, Ripley’s years of experience playing for the club appear to have held him in good stead, enjoying a fantastic rapport with the players.
Granted, it may be too early to come to any conclusions about promotion. In fact, such a prediction would be ridiculously premature, being only three games into the season.
Northants, incidentally, have won two and drawn one, thrashing Gloucestershire by a resounding seven wickets in their last outing. And yet, it looks as though this may finally be the year when young players such as Alex Wakely, who have occasionally looked a little lacking in maturity going into the last months of the season, come of age.
Wakely and Peters kept remarkably cool heads in their second innings against Gloucestershire, albeit only chasing a total of 90. Northants took maximum points from the game, and are looking in good shape in their current match – the visitors bowled Kent out on the first day for 271, with Trent Copeland taking five wickets.
Despite a spirited first innings from Kent’s middle order, Northants appear to be embracing the warm weather amid a new lease of life that may finally see them shatter the glass ceiling and return to the lofty heights of Division One.
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