Target achieved as promotion is secured

Alan Richardson is congratulated after dismissing Matt Spriegel
Alan Richardson is congratulated after dismissing Matt Spriegel

For the first time since 2004, Northamptonshire are in the first division of the LV= County Championship.

Essex’s failure to gain maximum batting points from their encounter with Hampshire in Southampton - the final wicket, that of Monty Panesar, falling early in the evening session - was the moment when all the worrying could stop and the champagne could be uncorked.

LVCC. 'Worcs V Northants at New Road. 'Worcestershire players celebrating (David Willey out).

LVCC. 'Worcs V Northants at New Road. 'Worcestershire players celebrating (David Willey out).

Five months of consistently good cricket, with only a pair of defeats to champions Lancashire to blot the copybook, has been rewarded with promotion to the top flight and added the icing to what has been a remarkable season.

This time last year the finishing touches were being applied to a woeful campaign during which the Championship cricket had been poor, the 40-over showings average and the 20-over showings absolutely dreadful.

Fast forward 12 months and, regardless of how this particular contest ends up, the curtain is coming down on an outstanding four-day season in the wake of a Twenty20 trophy for the mantelpiece and a 40-over competition that almost produced a semi-final appearance.

It could be argued that 2013 has been the most successful in the club’s history, certainly it has in terms of consistency across the board, but whether or not that’s the case, it has been an outstanding summer.

David Willey and Steven Crook celebrate after news of the County's promotion to Division One was confirmed

David Willey and Steven Crook celebrate after news of the County's promotion to Division One was confirmed

And while they were still extremely short odds to reach their target, for a period in the morning a few doubts lingered.

Once Essex had managed to take the necessary nine wickets in the 110-over allocation, the County’s struggles with the bat looked to be those of a team who suddenly realised what was at stake.

Andrew Hall, Matt Spriegel, Steven Crook and David Willey all fell before lunch and at 157-8, 93 runs short of the 250 that would guarantee a top two finish, things appeared a fraction dicey.

But Rob Keogh, whose stock rises with every innings, combined with David Murphy to take the score past 200 and put one point into the bag and although both fell in quick succession, the former needlessly run out and the latter trying an ill-advised reverse sweep, it was always going to be a tough ask for their nearest challengers who needed to reach 400 and win the game while hoping the County came second.

LVCC. 'Worcs V Northants at New Road. 'Northamptonshire players celebrating during their match against Worcestershire after hearing the Essex score which means they are promoted.

LVCC. 'Worcs V Northants at New Road. 'Northamptonshire players celebrating during their match against Worcestershire after hearing the Essex score which means they are promoted.

And once the Hampshire attack began to work their way through the Essex order, it became a matter of when not if the congratulations could be handed around.

When it arrived there was the nice touch of the home crowd offering a warm round of applause to accentuate the grins of the visiting players with the actual game taking a back seat for a moment.

What was occurring was of the attritional variety with Daryl Mitchell and Matt Pardoe battling away on a turgid surface.

Both fell to spin, which there was plenty of, and Thilan Samaraweera had his stumps rattled by Muhammad Azharullah as the hosts built up a handy advantage but the job had been done and there are only two days to go before the celebrations can start in earnest.