In the build-up to the new county season, we are running fans' county previews, beginning with Northants. Do feel free to email one to firstname.lastname@example.org, in the same format as the preview below.
2006 in a nutshell:
It was an average season for Northants in 2006, that saw us win only 1 C and G tie early on and some poor championship form gave us a bad start to the season. In June Kelper Wessels got sacked as coach and we never looked back - we qualified for the Twenty20 quarter-finals, came 3rd in the Pro40, and even our championship form picked up. Lance Klusener was our star man, basically running the show.
I am hopeful for 2007, we have a good group of players, and, with a fine captain and captain, this may even be the year in which we finally win a trophy.
I am disappointed to lose Bilal Shafayat after only 2 years at Northants. He was a key batsmen to us and was averaging nearly 50 in first class games until he had to fill in with the gloves, due to Riki Wessels' injury. We have two good overseas pros this year: Johan Van der Wath (South Africa) and Chris Rogers (Australia). We shouldn’t lose these two to international duty and they could play a key role - Rogers was superb last season hitting two double hundreds and a triple hundred. Meanwhile, Lance Klusener batted exceptionally last season. Uzman Afzaal, Stephen Peters and the reliable Sales should complete the batting order with Wessels or Niall O’Brien in at 5, 6 or 7 with the gloves.
It will be interesting to see who emerges as the regular gloveman; Wessels has done a good job in the last couple of seasons, but O’Brien has international experience and do we let a capped international play 2nd team cricket? Wessels starts as favourite to play because O’Brien was only brought in for cover, but an impressive World Cup could even it out for O’Brien. It is anyone’s guess at this stage who will play. This is a hell of a one-day batting unit and not a bad one in the Championship arena. Rob White will play a part too, mostly in the one-day tournaments in which his huge hitting can be very effective.
A virtually new look bowling line-up all together. Out - Phillips, Nicholson. In - Logan, Browning (youth and 2nd team player), Dawson.
Sadly, it seems Monty Panesar won’t be in the team much more, going on to international hero status. This means we have signed Richard Dawson from Yorkshire as our 2nd spinner - he will certainly play in the majority of games. Richard Logan looks a half-decent signing and I am looking forward to seeing how he does. Browning probably won’t play too much as he is only 18 and will play a lot of 2nd team stuff.
Put these new bowlers with the old Jason Brown, we have a respectable line up, with Van Der Wath opening the bowling and Klusener putting in a few overs.
Probable Championship side:
Wessels / O’Brien (wk)
Van Der Wath
With our powerful batting line-up, I feel we have every chance of winning the Pro40 competition. In the Championship, promotion will probably prove elusive, while the Twenty20 is anyone's guess. Considering Northants' penchant for starting the season slowly, though, do not expect much in the C & G Trophy.
Got to be Lance Klusener. He is a legend down here already. Had a great season last season and we are hoping for much of the same. He plays as a batsmen in Championship cricket now, just bowling as a fill-in. He can still hit it a mile when he gets going, although his inconsistency in one-day cricket is slightly frustrating. However when he is at his best in one-day cricket he is a match-winner: last season he almost single-handedly won us a few games, in both formats.
Tough one. Ryan Nelson looks good at only 19, although I doubt it very much that he will break into the first XI. It will be experiance all the way, much like last season.
Captain and Coach:
Very pleased with the captain, David Sales, who is in his benefit year. He is a top batsmen and a good captain, can’t ask for any more than that. David Capel took over for the last third of 2006 and you can’t fault him. Our form went up and he gets on well with the boys. A million times better than Wessels.