Jon Dunham – Don’t be downhearted, Northants have it all to play for

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

After a second defeat to Lancashire in Division Two of the LV County Championship, it would be easy for Northamptonshire’s players and followers to feel a bit downhearted.

But the truth is, some three months into the new season, the County can and should be feeling very pleased with themselves for what has been achieved so far.

The fact that Lancashire – still one of the powerhouse counties in the game despite finding themselves in Division Two – have had to beat David Ripley’s side twice to earn a narrow one-point lead at the top of the table shows you just how good Northants have been to date.

And the simple truth is, it really doesn’t matter whether you finish top or second. Promotion is the aim and that is still very much on the cards.

Northants hold a healthy lead over third-placed Worcestershire and a haul of four wins from their final six matches should see the job completed. It won’t be easy (these things never are) but there are reasons to be optimistic.

It shouldn’t be forgotten that Northants have had to contend with injuries to key players. The likes of captain Stephen Peters and Steven Crook, who had a blistering start to the season, immediately spring to mind.

They are both seemingly on their way back from the treatment room and will be a massive boost when they are available again.

Promotion in the County Championship is a priority for Northants this season but the opportunities for success don’t stop there.

They sit in second place in their respective Yorkshire Bank 40 and Friends Life T20 tables thanks to a vast improvement in the one-day formats after such a disappointing time in them last season.

It is testament to the work that Ripley and his players have put in so far. No-one has given them victories this season, they have earned every single one of them.

And this is why they shouldn’t feel too downhearted after the defeat to Lancashire at Wantage Road this week.

Instead, they need to pick themselves up and look forward to what lies ahead because if they can replicate their form from the first half of the season in the second, then there will be cause for celebration come the end of August and beginning of September.

On a final note, it is important we also mention Andrew Hall.

The former skipper broke through the 10,000 first class runs barrier thanks to a battling effort in the second innings at the County Ground this week.

Despite being relieved of the top job for this season, Hall has got stuck into the task in front of him and has proved to be a valuable player. His ability can never really be questioned and reaching that milestone sums up what a great career he has had.

Long may it continue for him. Long may it continue for Northamptonshire.