Northants travel to Emirates Old Trafford to take on fellow LV= County Championship Division One strugglers Lancashire, in what is a crucial game for both sides.
The last time these sides met, Lancashire were led to victory by the brilliance of England bowler James Anderson who recorded match figures of 10 for 89, in the visitors 60 run victory. With the pitch and conditions favouring the bowlers, Northants got off to a great start, bowling Lancashire out for 119, as 18 wickets fell on the opening day. Despite a half century by Matthew Spriegel in the first innings and James Middlebrook in the second innings, Northants failed to get above 200 in the match, and not even great bowling from Olly Stone could prevent a home defeat.
Last time out, Northants faced 2012 champions Warwickshire at the County Ground. Northants had a strong first innings, with Rob Newton leading the way, hitting a brilliant 114 as the hosts finished 312 all out. In Warwickshire’s reply young Sam Hain impressed, hitting his maiden first-class century, before falling for 134, with the score on 395/7. The Northants bowlers would have been kicking themselves after this wicket, as they allowed the Warwickshire tail end to add 207 runs for the loss of just two wickets. This was a real body blow for Northants, as the hosts were then bowled out for 185, losing by an innings and 105 runs.
Lancashire’s last game saw them travel to face fellow strugglers Durham at Chester-le-Street. The hosts had their lower order to thank, after half centuries from Phil Mustard and Paul Coughlin helped them reach 338 all out, as Kyle Hogg ripped through their middle order taking 6 wickets in the innings. In reply, despite an 86 from Australian Usman Khawaja, Lancashire could only make 266 all out. In Durham’s second innings, despite a five-fer from Tom Smith, a 92 from Scott Borthwick helped give the hosts a 339 run lead going into the final innings. A fine unbeaten century from Jos Buttler was not enough for Lancashire, as the visitors fell 27 runs shy of their target, in what was a thrilling game.
Northants will be pleased to see James Anderson bowling for England at Headingley this weekend after his performance at the County Ground in April. However, the Northants batsmen will still have to be wary of the likes of Tom Smith, who has already taken 33 wickets at an average of 21 this season. Whilst Lancashire have at times struggled with the bat this season, with players such as Usman Khawaja, Steven Croft and Jos Buttler in their line-up, Northants will not be underestimating the host’s batsmen.
David Ripley has made two changes to the squad that lost to Warwickshire last week.
Returning to the squad is Muhammad Azhar Ullah and David Willey for the first time in this competition since April.
These two will replace Maurice Chambers and Olly Stone.
Muhammad Azhar Ullah