Ripley challenges Northants to maintain impressive start at New Road
Northants are on their best run of four-day wins since 2003 - and they will look to continue their hot streak at Worcestershire this week.
David Ripley’s men have started the season in style, winning their first two championship matches for the first time since 1987.
Those triumphs add to the three they finished the previous campaign with, lifting hopes ever higher at the County Ground.
And with last season’s T20 champions showing they can win in pretty much any circumstances, Worcestershire should be worried ahead of the division two clash which starts at New Road on Friday (11am).
Northants completed a thrilling three-wicket victory at Derbyshire on Monday, with Rory Kleinveldt’s six from the penultimate ball of the match getting the job done.
Skipper Alex Wakely had engineered the win, approaching Derbyshire counterpart Billy Godleman in a bid to set up a run chase.
Godleman agreed, with Northants’ buffet bowling leading their hosts to declare on 351 for one, setting Wakely’s men 326 to win.
And with Rob Newton rifling 98 and Richard Levi a quickfire 99, Northants got home, as Steven Crook and Kleinveldt held their nerve with their team seven wickets down in the final over.
The enthralling victory backed up the opening-game success against Glamorgan, which came by an innings and 22 runs.
And Northants head coach David Ripley said: “We’ve talked about being positive in our outlook on the championship, how we apporach it and how we view it.
“We have a collective belief that we’re prepared to try to win those games and Alex (Wakely) went into the negotiations to get something we felt was fair.
“We knew we would have to play very well to get those runs but we knew if we lost our way we could block it out and it would be up to Derbyshire to try to bowl us out.
“All results were possible in the last 10 minutes of the match.
“We could easily have lost those three wickets because having got so close to the score, we were always going to keep going for the win.
“It was a bit heavy watching in the morning. I didn’t really enjoy that and I’d rather they’d pushed the button without us giving everyone a bowl, but the game turned out the way we all wanted it.”
Despite winning their final three matches of last season, Northants could only finish fifth in County Championship Division Two.
And they are clearly determined to put themselves in a much better position this time round.
“A lot of our chat has been about how we finished the season last year and we wanted to play a lot of good cricket in the first half of this season,” Ripley said.
“Coming out on top in four-day matches was great at the end of last season, but it didn’t really mean a lot because we weren’t in position for promotion.
“This time, we wanted to start as we finished last season so that come the end of this campaign we can have some really big games to be involved in.
“That was our plan and it’s one thing to talk about it but it’s another to come out and win our first two games.
“I don’t think we’ve won our first two games for 30 years so that’s a pretty impressive start.”
But Northants know that a start is all it is.
And they would love to make it three wins in a row at Worcestershire, who beat Glamorgan by eight wickets last weekend.
“They had a really good win themselves,” Ripley said.
“We’ve had some good games against those and we’re pretty well matched so we’re expecting much the same.
“We’ve got a couple of lads whose niggles we want to settle down and hopefully we’ll have a similar team and put in a good performance.”
Northants begin their Royal London One-Day Cup campaign with a home game against holders Warwickshire next Thursday.
And Ripley has been handed a double injury boost.
He said: “We’ve got one or two lads who are not even in the team and who are chomping at the bit.
“Richard Gleeson and Azharullah have been playing second-team cricket this week and we’re getting back to almost a full-strength squad.
“It will be good if we get into that situation and we’ve got everyone fit.
“Games come thick and fast and in three weeks, you’re either in or you’re out.
“To have everyone fit would be is really important.”