WOW What a Season!!
Well, well what can I say after one of the best seasons of cricket for Northamptonshire County Cricket Club. Was it real or like a lot of supporters was it a dream I was living.
From the first match of the season at a wet and windy Sophia Gardens where I went to watch the lads, to that promotion day on the Wednesday at Worcester and the t20 Finals day at Edgbaston; this season will go down in history as one of Northants’ most successful seasons. In fact I think the only other season that tops this one, is the 1976 one where we finished 2nd in the County Championship, which of course was all one division at that point, and we also won the Gillette Cup.
This season, the real thing that stood out for me in all competitions was the team work at the club and the close camaraderie within the squad, that was evident for all to see as the season went on. There was some great performances, probably too many to mention individually in all competitions, but it was always good to see that when one of our top performers was not doing the business, then there was always somebody to step up to the mantle and pull things around, be it with the bat or the ball.
In the LV= County Championship, although no one got over the magical one thousand runs, a lot of players got close, such as Andrew Hall (936 runs), David Sales (919), Stephen Peters (735). Although if Peters hadn't missed a lot of games through his finger injury, then he would have reached that magical mark. James Middlebrook (711) showed how much that the whole all-round team ethic came into play.
It was the same with the bowling, no one got up to 50 wickets, but some came close, Trent Copeland (45), David Willey (45), Steven Crook (43) and Andrew Hall (37). I know I have said it in a previous blog, but credit must go to David Ripley and his team for landing Trent Copeland on two occasions! I don't think I have seen a Northants overseas player that was not only phenomenal with the ball but also with the bat and his slip fielding. No wonder he was not a happy chappy, when he was told at the start of the Glamorgan game that he would be batting at number eleven!
So Division One here we come, I am personally just looking forward next season, to playing some of the teams in the four day competition that we only ever see in the one day stuff. There will be no pressure on our lads next season, so I say bring it on!
In the YB40 competition, it was sad to see us miss out only on net run rate, which I suppose in football terms, would be the equivalent to goals against column. If only the weather would have been kinder to us in Holland, where hopefully we would have won, then things could have been so much better for us. In this competition there was some good performances with the bat for Rob Newton, Cameron White and Andrew Hall who all topped the batting averages. And of course not forgetting the three hundreds scored by messrs David Willey, Kyle Coetzer and Alex Wakely. On the bowling front, Steven Crook took 17 wickets, whilst Trent Copeland and Muhammad Azhar Ullah both weighed in with 15 wickets a piece.
And finally the Friends Life t20 competition, the one that we won to round this great season of nicely. In the final against the high money spenders Surrey, the match belonged to David Willey but in the batting averages again it was nice to see our overseas player Cameron White top the batting with 46.33, followed by James Middlebrook 36 and the for-mentioned David Willey 33. On the bowling front Muhammad Azhar Ullah took the most wickets with 27, followed by Willey with 21 and loanee signing Graham White took 17.
What a final, I am sure like me, most of you have had your picture taken with the t20 trophy. What a great opportunity for fans to grab a piece of history, being the first trophy we have won for 21 years.
So those are a few of the stand out performances from individuals throughout the season, but now I would like to take my own personal opportunity to thank a few players and coaches at the club. First of all to David Ripley, the coach that was pulling the strings, what a fantastic atmosphere he created between the players and it was nice to see him pick up his deserved rewards at the End of Season Dinner, well done David. The two overseas players in Copeland and White, that unless there are to be some rule changes or they play some test matches, then it is very unlikely that we will see these two competitive and down to earth cricketers next season.
It is always sad to see players being released but as is the nature of the beast in any sport, this always happens and I would like to wish good luck in the future to Luke Evans, Con de Lange, Sam Sweeney and Christian Davis, good luck fellers. Good luck as well to the retiring Lee Daggett not only a good cricketer who always gave 100% in any match that he played but he is also a genuinely nice guy, good luck Lee at the Saints. Just three personal mentions on the current playing staff, first a warm welcome to Maurice Chambers and it is great news to see David Sales taking up his one year contract to be rightfully playing in Division One. And what a great season for Muhammad Azhar Ullah, to come to the club on trial and by the end of the season to have been given a new 2 year deal, and have other counties after you is an absolutely great achievement.
So finally well done to players, backroom staff, groundsmen, office staff and supporters, in what has been one of the best seasons ever for anyone connected to Northants Cricket. A well-used phrase at the End of Season Dinner used by the players for next season was "onwards and upwards". Now it is winter, I am going to have to have a lie down after that season, up the Steelbacks!