Bright showing by the youth provides County optimism

Rob Keogh made a fine century for Northamptonshire against Sussex
Rob Keogh made a fine century for Northamptonshire against Sussex

The talk around Northamptonshire at the moment is, understandably, focused on the future.

Considering the recent past has been pretty dreadful you would expect nothing else.

The removal of several older players from the County with an emphasis on youth has not necessarily been given universal support from either near of far.

But today there were certainly glimpses there is brightness on the horizon.

Sussex resumed the second day in a strong position having recovered from early struggles on the first.

Their morning form had not been great but there was a pattern familiar to all Northamptonshire supporters emerging as brief hope was slowly battered away by an increasingly-dominant opposition.

They closed overnight 300-7 which soon became 361-7 and more of the same seemed on the cards.

Step forward 20-year-old Olly Stone.

The quick bowler removed the last three Sussex wickets to claim 20-8-48-5 and bag his first five-wicket haul in first-class cricket.

The visitors gone for 368, the reply then also followed the pattern.

Soon down to 17-2 another County submission was pending.

But Rob Keogh - who is still only 22 - joined up with his more experienced colleague James Middlebrook to steady the ship.

Middlebrook’s departure - for 48 in this match and from the club in a couple of day’s time - meant Keogh needed to step up.

He did just that.

Supported by Ben Duckett - who remains a teenager until next month - they put 99 for the fifth wicket.

The partnership was broken when Duckett was trapped in front by Luke Wells for 60.

But still the patient Keogh went on.

He finally reached his hundred in the final over of the day having faced 183 deliveries and batted for just shy of four hours.

His 104 not out was the stand-out showing in Northamptonshire’s 251-7.

Trailing a team by 117 with only three wickets remaining is no cause for celebration at the County Ground.

However, though they may not exactly be reaching for the shades just yet, performances like this suggest the future certainly looks a little brighter.