Andrew Radd - Seconds’ rest is unwanted

Jake Fawcett
Jake Fawcett

Northamptonshire physio Barry Goudriaan has been called upon to treat a bewildering variety of aches, pains and miscellaneous complaints during his time at Wantage Road.

Not until this year, though, have nasty cases of rust and trench foot appeared in his consulting room.

The general wetness of things has frustrated and depressed all cricketers – armchair or active – over the past few weeks.

And the County’s second-teamers have suffered more than most.

Leading off with a thoroughly impressive victory in their friendly against Gloucestershire at Rugby School last month, the ‘stiffs’ have barely bowled a ball in anger since.

And although a few squad members enjoyed an outing in the recent contest between a combined Kent and Northamptonshire side and Yorkshire at Beckenham, coach David Ripley concedes it’s been a truly miserable spell.

“I can’t remember anything like this at the start of a season,” he admits.

“A few years ago we had some pretty grim weather in the middle, but the start had been okay and we’d managed to get some cricket in then.

“With us getting underway so early as well – it really does feel as though the rain has been with us for a long time.”

It’s a particularly annoying scenario for those eager to make a case to David Capel when it comes to County Championship and CB40 selection.

“Even if they’re not in great nick, the players in the first team are not being pushed because nobody’s had the chance to mount a serious charge from the Second XI,” Ripley adds.

“The fact that Saturday cricket has also taken a hit hasn’t helped – and it’s been really difficult to even get decent practice outdoors on grass.

“So it’s not just the matches – it’s really taken the wind out of everything we do. It’s been a case of just ploughing on in the indoor school.”

In truth, the second team’s early-season fixture list wouldn’t have been particularly conducive to continuity, regardless of the weather.

After the Gloucestershire match came a fortnight-long break ahead of a solitary one-dayer against Huntingdonshire.

Which, needless to say, was washed out.

The following week should have offered four days of cricket against Worcestershire – but, again, they drew a total blank.

Ripley insists his players have managed to remain positive and focused on the job in hand, despite the succession of soggy days.

But – and this is a recurring theme – he’s keen to voice his concerns about the differing standards when it comes to facilities for first and second-team cricket.

“The covering of grounds makes such a difference in the seconds,” he explains.

“If we’re playing on a club ground and get half a day’s rain we can often end up losing the other half because it’s just too wet.

“Then we get to somewhere like Beckenham, where they’ve obviously got proper covers.

“That makes a big difference because if it stops raining we can get out there.”

The ‘combined’ fixture against Yorkshire saw Christian Davis, Ben Howgego, Rob White, Con de Lange and David Murphy all spend time at the crease – although, according to Ripley, “no-one went on to get a big score on what was basically a pretty good pitch” – while David Burton picked up some handy wickets.

This week’s four scheduled days of cricket against Derbyshire is followed (believe it or not) by another break, ahead of the seconds’ Twenty20 competition which starts on May 28.

“We’ve got quite a bit of one-day cricket coming up soon,” Ripley says.

“It’s generally quite nice to think you’re going into the limited-overs stuff off the back of some time in the middle.

“But of course it hasn’t quite panned out that way.

“So it could be a case of ‘best when fresh!’”

Fortunately, it hasn’t been all indoor nets and Xbox for the County’s up-and-comings.

Christian Davis, Rob Keogh and Ryan Findlay did 12th and 13th man duties for the England Lions during their victory over the West Indies at Wantage Road.

And Ripley has been relieved to see most of his squad get a Saturday run-out – either for the Academy side or their allocated league clubs.

The coach admits to being “a bit of a Statto” when it comes to monitoring the progress of the NCL Premier Division – and didn’t fail to spot a big hundred earlier this month by Northampton Saints’ new Aussie import Jake Fawcett.

The 22-year-old from Perth – who featured in the reality TV show ‘Cricket Superstar’ back home – hit an unbeaten 151 against Burton Latimer.

And Ripley is keen to run the rule over him in a county environment.

“We’re having a look at Jake this week – he’s had a few nets with us and looks a good player.

“It’s obvious he’s got pedigree, he’s also on our doorstep and with his British passport we’d be silly not to see what he can do.”

“There’s plenty of competition for places in the second team at the moment.

“And that hasn’t been the case in some of our campaigns in the past, when opportunities have perhaps been too readily available.

“Hopefully that will bring the best in the lads.”

That – and a few days’ respite from the drought monsoon.