Northants hope their man-of-the-moment can replace David Willey

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Northamptonshire's off-field woes had seen them written off before the County Championship season had even begun.

The departure of England star David Willey, compounded by ongoing financial difficulties, led many to expect another season of misery in the four-day game at Wantage Road.

However, a surprise candidate is already staking his claim to replace Willey's runs.


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21-year-old wicketkeeper Ben Duckett reached his double-hundred on day two against Sussex, continuing his fine form towards the end of last season.

Duckett hit his first ton in the final game of last year against Surrey, and now looks comfortable once again, admittedly after dropping down a division.

Steelbacks in control 

While he was perhaps fortunate not to be caught by the slips, he went on to aid captain Alex Wakely in his own half-century. He also put up a decent stand with fellow opener Jake Libby, who made 42 in his first competitive match since signing on a one-month loan from Nottinghamshire.

Sussex, who have enjoyed more favourable predictions, even being tipped to win Division Two, may be rueing their decision to put the Steelbacks in to bat first.

Northants must continue fighting cricket's Goliaths 

Northants have a history of upsetting the odds, reaching the final of the T20 last year before losing out to Lancashire at the final hurdle. Duckett is strong across all formats of the game, and while it may be too early to link him with an England call-up, he will certainly be in contention if he continues at this pace.

In the past, it has been his batting that has needed improving for him to be worthy of an England cap, but he looks to have grown in pre-season. It was certainly a wise move to bring Duckett up the order, as his upturn in form has coincided with head coach David Ripley's decision to allow him to open the batting.

After the ECB's efforts to revamp the competition, Duckett's knock is another promising sign of what the County Championship can deliver this season. Division Two, and Northants in particular, might have been written off at times, but the youngster's confident knock suggests there may be more action than expected.

Who do you think will be the star of the County Championship? Have your say in the comments below!

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Joe Root
Kevin Pietersen
England cricket

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