County can now compete on all three fronts, says captain Wakely

In years gone by, Northants have been forced to focus on white-ball cricket purely because their squad simply couldn't stretch much further.

Thursday, 12th April 2018, 2:23 am
Updated Thursday, 12th April 2018, 2:31 am
Northants are aiming to compete in all three competitions this season (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)

But skipper Alex Wakely is confident that it can be a different story this time round.

The addition of players such as Luke Procter and Brett Hutton to an already talented bunch means the County can now give the red-ball action a real go.

Not that they didn't last season, of course.

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They actually did better in County Championship Division Two than they did in the T20 Blast and the One-Day Cup.

Northants picked up nine four-day wins, eventually finishing just five points adrift of the second promotion place.

That gap could have been closed had Wakely and Co not been docked five points for a slow over rate in a game against Nottinghamshire, who finished second, in August.

And now hopes are high that Northants can go one better and win promotion this season, as well as battling for trophies in the shorter formats of the game.

"This year, we've got one of the best squads around and one of the best squads we've had to compete in all formats," Wakely said.

"Usually at Northants we've had to focus on one particular format, just because of the limited amount of staff, but this year we've got the best squad we've had for a long time.

"This time of the year, all of the counties are saying they want to go out and win everything and you've got to be realistic about it.

"I know we can be competitive in all three formats. I want a really good push for the County Championship - there's no reason why we can't get promoted.

"We're a very competitive and strong white-ball team but we've just got to put in those complete performances.

"Last year, we strung certain bits together but we never managed to put in those performances for the whole game."

Looking back more closely at last season, when Northants bowed out of the T20 Blast and One-Day Cup competitions at the group stage, Wakely said: "It was a weird season really.

"We set out to be competitive in all formats.

"White-ball cricket has been out strength over the past few years and unfortunately last year it didn't really go to plan for us.

"We played some really good cricket in that format but we couldn't quite string it all together.

"The County Championship ended up being our strength and we put in some great performances against some of big sides and unfortunately we just missed out on promotion.

"It was probably my fault that we did miss out because we got docked some points and missed out by five points so that was pretty frustrating."

This season, Wakely will look to make up for that mistake in grand style.

He is determined to lead from the front for Northants, looking to build on what he labels an 'okay' 2017 campaign.

"I've done okay during my career but never really had that big breakthrough year so I want to be doing that," said the 29-year-old, who racked up 658 runs in 13 four-day matches last season.

"As a captain, you want to be leading from the front, I want to be scoring big runs, get those big hundreds and hopefully lead those batting averages.

"We've got a very competiive squad all the way through. Our batting last year was brilliant because we've got some explosive players and also guys who can grind it out.

"It's very exciting."