By Harry Hill
Where?: Wantage Road, Northampton
Ins: Brett Hutton (Nottinghamshire), Luke Proctor (Lancashire), Ricardo Vasconcelos (EUP), Doug Bracewell (New Zealand, 1st month of the season), Rory Kleinveldt (South Africa, from Mid-May), Seekkuge Prasanna ( Sri Lanka, for T20 Blast).
Outs: David Murphy (Retired), Azharullah (Released)
Last Season: County Championship: 3rd, RLODC: Group stage, T20: Group Stage.
2018 odds: County Championship: 9/1, RLODC: 20/1, T20: N/A - Powered by Oddschecker.com
Last season played out rather differently to how many would have expected, with a very strong showing in the County Championship with Northants finishing 3rd in Division Two after a strong backend of the season saw them pick up four wins on the spin to push Nottinghamshire all the way. Northants will be looking to gain similar momentum at the start of this season, but it starts with a tough looking trip to Lord’s in the opening round of fixtures against recently relegated Middlesex.
Looking ahead to the strengths and weaknesses of the squad, Northants will be delighted to have kept the core of the group together, as the tight-knit comradery was certainly a driving factor in last seasons’ successes. I suspect that skipper Alex Wakely will be happy with his bowling options this season, an area of real improvement last season. The club looks to have a nice balance to the bowling attack, and the signing of Doug Bracewell will add valuable international experience for the early part of the season to complement the likes of Ben Sanderson and Richard Gleeson. Perhaps one area that David Ripley has been looking at over the winter is the batting depth, as Northants took only 29 batting bonus points last season, amongst the lowest in the division. The addition of all-rounder Luke Proctor from Lancashire will add some depth to the middle-order, after impressing with three half-centuries from just two matches on loan at Wantage Road at the end of last season.
There are several players to look out for this season, Rob Newton has gone under the radar at the top of the order with the likes of Richard Levi and Ben Duckett understandably grabbing the headlines. But Rob Newton got ten half-centuries last season in the County Championship, and if he can convert a few of these into big hundreds, Northants can look forward to competing towards the top of Division Two this season. Another player to keep an eye on is Richard Gleeson, who was rewarded with a trip to the West Indies with the England Lions, impressing with both the red and white ball over the past few months. The arrival of exciting wicket-keeper batsman Ricardo Vasconcelos will add some competition for the gloves with Adam Rossington as the highly-rated South African replaces retired club stalwart, David Murphy.
The race for promotion to Division One will be extra competitive this season as Middlesex and Warwickshire will both be desperate for a short stay in Division Two. I suspect that Northants will enjoy being the underdog, with a fearless ‘can-do’ attitude proving its value in the County Championship by Essex last season. Northants have long been renowned with white-ball success, but last season was disappointing for the club, as they failed to progress through the group stages of either the One-Day Cup or the T20 Blast. The Northants squad is very much suited to T20 cricket, with the likes of explosive batsman Ben Duckett, Richard Levi and Adam Rossington, complemented with the accurate medium pace of Rory Kleinveldt and Steven Crook.
Northants supporters can expect an exciting season ahead, and with a bit of early season momentum to carry on from last year, a promotion push could be a distinct possibility.
Where I think Northamptonshire will finish:
County Championship Division Two: 2nd
One-Day Cup: 5th (North Group)
T20 Blast: 3rd (North Group)
You can follow Harry on Twitter on @HarryHill96.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.
All Charlie Jennings County Championship David Bowden Derbyshire Durham Essex Glamorgan Gloucestershire Hampshire Harry Hil Harry Hill Hector Cappelletti Jamie Ramage Kent Lancashire Leicestershire Mark Kidger Matthew Nichols Matt Layton Middlesex Northamptonshire Nottinghamshire RLODC Season Previews Somerset Surrey Sussex T20 VFTO Predicts Warwickshire Worcestershire Yorkshire