2014 will be a season of new opportunities for a relatively young Northants Cricket side that will relish their place at the top table of English Cricket: Division One of the LV= County Championship, for the first time in 10 years.
On top of promotion, The Steelbacks triumphed in the Friends Life t20 to really announce their arrival to the ring as a true contender this season.
Throughout the season, Northantscricket.com will take a look at the teams and players who will come up against Northants in Division One this season and where better to start than last season’s champions Durham.
Last Season: Champions of England once again, the Chester-Le-Street based juggernauts of the County game will fancy their chances of silverware again this summer.
Player to Watch: With the Dangerous Ben Stokes out injured and bound for further England duty, Durham will rely on the skill on Graham Onions to bowl teams out. The star bowler was very unlucky not to be taken to Australia for the Ashes in the winter and will want to prove a point to selectors this year. A masterful bowler, Onions took more wickets than anyone else at a better average than any bowler with more than 20 wickets as Durham charged to the title.
Overseas Signing: Durham recently announced the signing of John Hastings, a bowling all-rounder who will join the side after the IPL finishes. The Victoria and Australian seam bowler will add international experience to Durham’s dominant ranks.
Verdict: A tough opening encounter for David Ripley’s men, Durham will give Northants a hostile welcome to the rigours of Division One Championship Cricket.
Last season: Lancashire romped to the Division Two title and showed Northants the required standard of Division One cricket having defeated the County twice in two weeks – Winning by 8 wickets in June after bowling Northants out for 62 in the 1st innings at Old Trafford, and winning by 8 wickets at the County Ground in early July.
Player to Watch: With 60 Championship wickets last season and one half of a deadly duo alongside Glen Chapple in the Lancashire seam attack, Kyle Hogg will be a vital component of a Lancashire side looking at a top three finish after a season in Division Two. Hogg is a nippy seamer who prospers with the new ball. Hogg’s career best figures were achieved against Northants last summer, as he claimed 7-27 in the first innings at Old Trafford.
Overseas Signing: Former South African international Ashwell Prince is an overseas star for Lancashire although he is signed as a Kolpak player. A reliable batsman with 119 international caps, Prince has been a mainstay for Lancashire over the years, and last season smashed over 1100 runs for the Red Rose County.
Verdict: Meeting Lancashire early in the season may help Northants and this could be a winnable encounter for the Steelbacks but memories of last season need to be put to bed.