Jon Dunham – Should Northants now prioritise the one-day competitions?

Northamptonshire Telegraph's sports writers Jon Dunham, Jim Lyon and Alec Swann.

Northamptonshire Telegraph's sports writers Jon Dunham, Jim Lyon and Alec Swann.

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With the evidence that is in front of us, it would seem that the gap between Division One and Division Two of the LV County Championship is a big one.

From the outside looking in, it would appear that Northamptonshire are already facing a big struggle to remain in the top flight this season, even though we are yet to reach the end of May.

It is, perhaps, not entirely unexpected and neither would it be any sort of disgrace if the County were to suffer demotion at the end of the season.

You only have to look at the counties they are up against, the money that is behind them and the players they have available to know that it would always be an uphill struggle.

The alarming thing for David Ripley and his staff, no doubt, will be the way the four defeats in five matches have come about.

Three have been lost by an innings and, again this is a case of me watching from afar, it seems Northants have crumbled on too many occasions.

Clearly there is work to do to make themselves harder to beat. They have the capability to do that and I am sure, as time goes by, that will be the case. Whether it is enough to ultimately keep them amongst the elite remains to be seen.

But, with that doom and gloom out of the way, the early evidence in the defence of their T20 title suggests the one-day format may well suit the group of players available.

The Steelbacks got off to a winning start by beating Yorkshire at Headingley, no mean feat.

And, given their form in the Championship, you wonder whether they might just begin to prioritise the NatWest T20 Blast and the new Royal London One Day Cup.

I am not for a second suggesting the towel should be thrown in as far as the four-day competition is concerned, far from it. Indeed, that wouldn’t be the case anyway.

But given the start they have had in the T20 and given that they are the defending champions and are now well aware of the attention and adulation that winning the competition brings, I wonder whether it may be wise to channel their energies into going as far as possible once again.

The players are there to do it again. They have plenty of firepower in the batting with the likes of Richard Levi and David Willey while Ben Duckett is beginning to show what he is capable of in all forms of the game.

And, in the bowling ranks, the likes of Steven Crook and Muhammad Azharullah are well aware of what is needed from them while overseas signing Ian Butler made an immediate impact with four wickets up north last Friday.

The key thing for the County is to not allow their poor start in the Championship to deter them in the one-day competitions.

The tide will turn in the four-day format as long as they continue to identify where it is going wrong and work hard to improve it.

But, as they prepare to take on Leicestershire in their second T20 clash of the season at Wantage Road tonight (Friday), I would suggest that the Steelbacks are once again a team to be feared in the short form of the game.

The Championship may have started badly but there is plenty of life left in this season and it’s important Ripley and his men focus their attention on defending the crown that so emphatically put this great County back on the cricketing map last year.