County on the brink as draw takes them closer to promotion

Northants v Kent, County Championship, County Ground, Wantage Road, Northampton.'Rob Keough.
Northants v Kent, County Championship, County Ground, Wantage Road, Northampton.'Rob Keough.

Promotion to the top flight is just a few small steps away for Northamptonshire after their penultimate LV= County Championship game of the season ended in a draw.

They bid farewell to Wantage Road for another summer having done all they needed to on the final day against Kent - a match that meandered to a premature conclusion with no result likely.

Northants v Kent, County Championship, County Ground, Wantage Road, Northampton.'Matt Spriegel.

Northants v Kent, County Championship, County Ground, Wantage Road, Northampton.'Matt Spriegel.

With rain-affecting the latest round of games, and nearest rivals Essex heading for a tame finish themselves, this game was all about collecting as many points as possible and leaving their required haul from the final match as low as possible.

And that they did by passing 400 in due time to collect their five batting bonuses thanks to centuries from two of their senior players.

James Middlebrook continued his good all-round contribution by going through three figures only to fall soon after for 109.

It was then up to David Sales, whose future at the club is far from assured, to make the 29th hundred of his first-class career - passing 14,000 first-class runs as he did.so.

It might be his farewell to the County Ground as discussions with the management about whether he will be offer another contract will be had at the end of the season.

But, with first division cricket almost a certainty now, it would be a brave club who headed out of this section without someone of Sales’ quality.

If Division One is Northamptonshire’s destination, it will probably be one they arrive at with Sales on board.

And so to the facts and figures of what still remains to be done.

There are 20 points between the County and Essex with just one game to go.

Five points from the trip to Worcestershire will be enough to guarantee promotion - and that is always assuming Essex get a maximum from their game at Hampshire.

For the record this game ended with Northamptonshire declaring on 431-5 at around 4.20pm meaning the motions could stop being gone through and everyone could go home early.

It now will take a strange set of circumstances to deny Northamptonshire their place among the elite in 2014.

But, considering they have come close but failed to go up on a couple of occasions recently, there will be no chicken counting until those five points have been firmly secured.