Northants’ gallant display against Yorkshire in the T20 served as a firm statement of the reigning champions’ intent, but the demands of life in the County Championship Division One could serve as a hammer blow to their chances.
The Steelbacks triumphed in their opening match against Yorkshire at Headingley by three wickets, a small piece of revenge for the recent County Championship match between the two sides last month, which the White Rose won by a resounding innings and 120 runs.
However, despite a strong start to the competition, head coach David Ripley must fear that his relatively small squad may struggle to balance their Championship and limited overs games.
With that in mind, Ripley will have been glad to have finally added an overseas player to the books, namely former New Zealand bowler Ian Butler, who took four wickets against Yorkshire, including those of England hopefuls Jonny Bairstow and Adil Rashid.
Butler will be with the Wantage Road outfit until July, a blessing that has been a long time coming after a series of overseas signings fell through. Australian Jackson Bird and South African Rory Kleinveldt both agreed deals to join the Steelbacks, before being forced to withdraw due to injury. That was followed by another blow as Pakistan’s 29-year-old seamer Sohali Tanvir became the latest potential signing to collapse.
Northants will be desperate to keep all hands on deck and avoid any further injuries. Even before the season began, limited overs Captain Alex Wakely was ruled out for the duration of it, having torn his Achilles in pre-season in the West Indies. Wakely will no doubt be devastated not to be playing a part in defending the cup he guided his side to last summer, though David Willey, who was equally instrumental in that victory, has recovered from his own early season injury and is looking in fine form. Willey top scored against Yorkshire with 43 off 28 balls.
The efforts of teenager Ben Duckett must not be overlooked, though, particularly due to the timing of his unbeaten 39. The England under-19 starlet pushed his side over the line at the very end, with Northants needing 9 off 4 balls and all the odds suggesting the match was Yorkshire’s.
Northants have now returned to the longer form of the game, but as the season goes on, they may have to make a decision about priorities after their indifferent start to the Championship season. Should they decide to concentrate on the Natwest T20 blast, however, they certainly have a great chance of going all the way to Finals Day on 23rd August at Edgbaston.
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