It’s make or break time for County

Muhammad Azharullah is in line for a Championship recall at Old Trafford
Muhammad Azharullah is in line for a Championship recall at Old Trafford
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Northamptonshire have reached now or never stage in the LV= County Championship.

Following the innings defeat to Warwickshire, the County are 60 points from safety in the standings and 45 behind the eighth placed team, Lancashire, who provide their next opponents at Old Trafford tomorrow (Sunday, 11am).

Some rough calcualtions have the County needing to win at least four of their nine remaining games and pick up healthy amounts of points in their other outings if they are to have any chance of avoiding an immediate return to Division Two.

For a side in mediocre form that would be a tall ask but for one in appaling form, who haven’t tasted four-day success in their last 10 outings, it is bordering on the near-impossible.

But there is still hope and getting one over their nearest rivals would be as good a place as any to start.

The visitors will make at least two changes to their line-up with David Willey due to make a long awaited comeback to Championship cricket in his usual guise as an all-rounder.

And that is good news according to captain Stephen Peters who said: “There will be a couple of changes.

“David Willey will be back with us which is a big positive for us and (Muhammad) Azharullah will come back into the side as well.

“Azhar needed a rest after playing every game through pre-season, every one-day game and every Championship game.

“As much as we’d have liked to have him this week (against Warwickshire) at risk of breakdown and missing a bigger chunk of the season, a week off was important for him.”

Two seamers in means two seamers out and it is likely that Olly Stone and Maurice Chambers will sit this one out as Steven Crook was the most effectice against the Bears.

Another possible alteration could be the inclusion of left-arm spinner Graeme White and this will depend on the surface in Manchester which has traditionally offered assistance to those who turn the ball.

Peters added: “We’ll have to see if the pitch is going to turn up there and maybe look at a second spinner option.”

Willey’s recall, for the balance of the side, could also necessitate the dropping of a batsman with Rob Keogh, who has made just 26 runs in four Championship innings, the most vulnerable.

Northants from: Peters, Middlebrook, Levi, Keogh, Spriegel, Newton, Hall, Willey, Crook, Azharullah, White, Duckett, Stone, Chambers.