Where? The County Ground, Northampton
Ins: Rory Kleinveldt (Overseas, all formats), Seekkuge Prasanna (T20 Overseas), Nathan Buck, Max Holden (loan)
Outs: Olly Stone (Warwickshire), Monty Panesar (Released)
Key man: Ben Duckett
Last Year? Specsavers County Championship: 5th (184 points), Royal London One Day Cup: Q/F loss v Surrey, Natwest Blast: Winners
2017 Odds:*: County Championship: 16/1, RLODC: 16/1, T20: 12/1
Our Northamptonshire blogger Harry Hill had his say on the season ahead, here are his views.
Overall last season was a success for Northamptonshire CCC and hopes are high coming into the new season. Despite the notable departure of Olly Stone to Warwickshire, its been a quiet winter on the transfer front for the club. Instead, there has been a focus on retaining the core of the squad, with new contracts for Rob Newton, David Murphy, Richard Gleeson, and perhaps most significantly, for last year’s PCA players’ player of the year, Ben Duckett. The season starts for Northants as they welcome Glamorgan to the County Ground in Division Two, not before a pre-season tour to Barbados to find some form and top up the tan.
Looking ahead to the potential strengths and weaknesses of the playing squad, Northants possess an exciting batting line-up, which scored 300 plus on regular occasions last season. Much of the strength that the squad enjoys comes from its versatility, with all-rounders Rob Keogh, Steven Crook and Rory Kleinveldt offering invaluable depth to both the batting and bowling departments. In the County Championship last year, Northants drew nine games and perhaps missed a ‘strike bowler’, with genuine pace able to rattle through the opposition, particularly on some of the flat pitches they found on their travels in Division Two. The signing of Nathan Buck from Lancashire is a great addition to the squad and will add another dimension to the bowling attack this season.
There are several players to look out for this season, despite a difficult tour with England to Bangladesh in the winter, Ben Duckett remains one of the country’s most exciting young prospects and the 22-year-old would have learnt a lot from the experience. Graeme White had a superb season in 2016, winning ‘national player of the year’ in the One-Day Cup and was rewarded with a call-up to the England Lions squad for the tour to Sri Lanka in March. Additionally, Saif Zaib is another talent out of the academy, and the left-handed youngster will be no doubt be pushing hard for a regular spot in the team this season.
Due to having one of the smallest playing squads in the country, Northants have prioritised One-Day and T20 cricket in the past few seasons, and to considerable success, culminating in T20 victories in 2013 and 2016. I suspect more of the same for the coming season with hopes of reaching the knock-out stages in the shorter formats. The explosive Ben Duckett, Richard Levi and Adam Rossington will always get Northants off to a fast start and reliable skipper Alex Wakely will always secure the innings if required. Steady progress will be the aim in the County Championship, with the heavyweight additions of Nottinghamshire and (albeit points-deducted) Durham joining the reformed 10 team Division Two party. Turning draws into wins will be the demand from Head Coach David Ripley if Northants are going to make a push for promotion into Division One.
Where I think Northamptonshire will finish:
County Championship Division Two: 4th
One-Day Cup: 4rd (North Group)
T20 Blast: 3rd (North Group)