Northants are no match for Nottinghamshire

Andrew Hall made an unbeaten half-century but it was in vain
Andrew Hall made an unbeaten half-century but it was in vain

Improvement in white ball cricket was the mantra from the Northamptonshire camp prior to the season beginning.

The memory of a woeful 2012, just two victories collected in 22 outings, needed to be condemned to the dustbin and replaced by a campaign that offered something substantially better.

Well, if you’re a County supporter, on this evidence I wouldn’t be getting your hopes up too high just yet. In stark terms, this was a thrashing - by 83 runs if you want the grisly details - and an unmerciful one at that.

Nottinghamshire, one of the bookmakers’ favourites for the Yorkshire Bank 40 competition and armed with six internationals in their starting XI, made mincemeat of the home side either side of the tea interval.

On a decent Wantage Road surface and with an outfield that was unusually fast for this time of the year, they racked up an imposing 287-4 in their 40 overs and then tore the heart from the hosts’ batting in a spell that saw them pick up six wickets for 17 runs.

It would be too easy to lay all the blame at the door of the County’s attack who, Andrew Hall and Matt Spriegel aside, bowled with little direction or nous, because it was high-quality stuff from the trio of Alex Hales, James Taylor and Samit Patel.

Chris Read called correctly and after Michael Lumb fell to Trent Copeland in the second over, the Australian extracting some extra bounce, the visiting batsmen made hay on a decent surface.

Hales assumed the dominant role in the initial stages, reaching his 50 off as many balls, two runs after being badly dropped at short fine-leg off Hall, but his innings ended when he aimed a crude swipe at Steven Crook.

That brought in Patel and in collaboration with Taylor, the pair added 149 in under 18 overs.

Taylor’s first 50 was relatively sedate, taking 69 balls, but he accelerated markedly to his century with three figures coming up in a further 29 deliveries before he picked out long-on shortly after to give Crook a second expensive wicket.

Patel, dropped twice before reaching 40, was in full flow by this stage but fell five short of his own century, off just 66 balls, when he skied a return catch to Copeland in the final over.

Riki Wessels then rubbed a bit of salt into the wound as he provided an effective cameo with a couple of sixes as the total reached an imposing 287-4.

The hosts’ reply started promisingly as Stephen Peters and Kyle Coetzer put on 50 in the powerplay without any undue fuss but their good work quickly unravelled.

Peters, advancing down the pitch to Patel, had his stumps rattled and the same fate befell Coetzer who had his leg stump removed by Jake Ball in the next over.

Two then became three as Alex Wakely missed a rashly attempted reverse sweep off Patel and at 63-3 a tricky task suddenly looked very difficult indeed.

David Sales then steered a short, wide offering from Ball to backward point and Ben Duckett’s switch-hit gloved a catch to Chris Read.

All this occurred without the England spinner, Graeme Swann obviously, even entering the attack and when that happened, as is his wont, he duly struck in his first over by having Crook neatly stumped by Read.

If the game hadn’t already gone, if had now and the rest of the contest was merely playing out time.

Hall (58 not out) and James Middlebrook (43) offered up some belated resistance, the former finding some welcome form after a slow start to the year with the bat, but that shouldn’t deflect from the fact that there is work to be done and plenty of it.