Northants have received countless unwanted records this season, with their inevitable relegation confirming the gulf in class between the two divisions of the LV County Championship.
The gap is nowhere near as distinct in one-day contests between Division One and Two teams, as shown by second-tier Gloucestershire, who reached the quarter-finals of the Royal London One-Day Cup despite struggling in the longer format.
Bridging the gap
For the smaller counties, there are unsurprisingly concerns about how to bridge that gap against historic greats such as Yorkshire and Lancashire.
Northants head coach David Ripley echoed those fears, having seen his side demoted with three games left to play following a draw with Somerset.
“There is a growing gap”, he told The Telegraph. “Historically it’s proving tough for a county the size of ours to go in … with some of the bigger counties and the depth of resources they have in the top division.”
With injuries hitting their small squad early on, the depleted Wantage Road outfit struggled to compete as they faced sides possessing some of the biggest names in the country. Several deals to sign overseas players, including South Africa’s Rory Kleinveldt, fell through.
Next season will be similarly difficult for Ripley, as they will now be without the retired David Sales, or the recently-released Andrew Hall and Matthew Spriegel. However, the challenge of slipping back into Division Two is far less daunting.
Division One aspirations
Worcestershire look on their way to being champions, and will hopefully learn lessons from Northants, Derbyshire, and their own relegation in 2012.
That will be difficult, though, particularly as the ECB appears to have no current plans to limit the resources of the top counties. In fact, even many of the bigger clubs are stretched financially, and do not actually have the sort of funds to be limited.
The situation is in no way comparable to that in football, meaning there is very little that can be done about it.
With an unenviable record of three draws, ten losses, and no wins, Northants have amassed just 64 points so far, which could yet prove to be the lowest total of any side ever in the division. In their history, Northants have only spent three seasons in Division One, and have been relegated each time.
Needing another 24 ½ points to avoid Glamorgan’s embarrassing record, the scale of Northants’ failure at the top level serves as a warning to all hoping to excel among the greater counties.