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Northamptonshire return to the Specsavers County Championship this week with a short trip to high-flying Warwickshire, after a hard-fought Tour match against Pakistan.


The fixture served both sides very well, with Pakistan gearing up for the inaugural Test match in Ireland - and Northants now heading to Edgbaston hoping to get their promotion challenge up and running.


Northants gained valuable match time after little cricket so far this summer due to the weather and for Gareth Wade it was a chance to play just a second first-class match. The fast bowler made his debut at the start of last season against Loughborough, only for a stress fracture of the back to rule him out for most of the summer. But a winter’s rehab, including a trip to Cape Town, saw Wade return to first-class cricket.


“It’s been a really good experience for me,” said Wade. “I do really enjoy playing against top players like the Pakistanis because you want to test yourself against the best.


“It was tough last year to start the season against Loughborough and then pick up a stress fracture – something I’ve never had before. This year I’ve been thinking about my body a bit more, working with our strength and conditioning coach, and building myself up slowly. Hopefully I can carry on, bowl quick and take some wickets.”


Wade dismissed Azhar Ali, a veteran of 62 Test matches, for only his second first-class wicket and ensured a tough few months was worth the effort.


“I had three months off to rest and get things right before going to Cape Town,” said Wade. “I played for a team called Victoria and trained with the Cape Cobras, working with the likes of Rory Kleinveldt and Ashwell Prince. It was such a good experience and took me out of the indoor school for a while.”


Wade, who uses a fairly short explosive run-up, is the latest bowler to be recommended to Northants after impressing in Minor Counties cricket.


 “I got a great chance at Northumberland working with Geoff Cook and Jacques du Toit, they really pushed me on from being a club cricketer to a Minor Counties cricketer and now I have a chance at Northants,” he added.


“I used to have the Mark Wood run-up - quite short - because I’m quite explosive from the shoulder. I’ve worked with bowling coach Phil Rowe to develop my front arm and really coming through tall. I’ve gone maybe two steps further back from my original run-up because it conserves me a little more and means I can bowl longer spells. I think I’ve progressed quite a lot and hopefully I can continue to grow as a professional bowler.”

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