Sadler says Northamptonshire are ready for champion challenge at Edgbaston

Northamptonshire's relentless start to the LV= Insurance County Championship Division One season continues with a trip to reigning champions Warwickshire on Thursday (start 11am).

By Jeremy Casey
Thursday, 12th May 2022, 9:28 am
Northamptonshire head coach John Sadler
Northamptonshire head coach John Sadler

It is a third away match on the spin for John Sadler and his side, who travel to Edgbaston off the back of suffering their first defeat of the season, at Surrey last weekend, going down by an innings and five runs.

In what has been a hectic few weeks, that match followed on from hard-fought draws with Yorkshire at the County Ground and then Essex at Chelmsford, and the early-season action continues apace in Birmingham.

After four matches, Northants sit in seventh place in the Championship table, one place and 10 points behind this week's hosts.

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Northants were beaten inside three days at Surrey last weekend

Sadler's men have enjoyed a satisfactory start to the season and are 10 points clear of bottom-of-the-table Kent, who they host at the County Ground next week,

The head coach knows it is going to be nip and tuck throughout the summer, and feels his team may have already passed up on a couple of golden chances to claim precious wins.

"It is going to be a scrap all the way to the end, and I think every point is crucial," said Sadler.

"Unfortunately, we missed out against Gloucestershire where we got ourselves into a position where we could win, and we did the same against Essex.

"On another day we could quite easily be sat here with two wins to our name and the table would look very different.

"But we have said all along, we are going to play tough cricket, we are going to become hard to beat.

"And if we can get our minds around playing good, long attritional cricket then we will put ourselves in positions to win, which is what we have done in two of our four games so far.

"As daft as it sounds, even in the Yorkshire and Surrey games there were times in those matches where if we had got a bit of fortune we could have been in dominant positions as well.

"But the fact is there are some good cricketers, some good teams around, and it is going to be tough, but we are ready to go against Warwickshire."

Sadler also took time out to reflect on a disappointing performance at Surrey, and felt the match was lost on the second morning when the County let their hosts post a first innings total of 401.

The match was all over well inside three days, with Northants being bowled out for 194 and 202 in reply to the hosts big score - a total they reached despite at one point being 271 for eight.

And Sadler felt that was the key period of the game, as Gus Atkinson (66) and Jamie Overton (59) put on 124 for the ninth wicket to put their team in control.

“First division cricket is relentless and they bowled superbly throughout," said Sadler.

"There is no shame in losing to a good side, and if you look at Surrey's squad and their strength in depth, they are a very good team.

"They also played some good cricket and I am sure there are going to be other days, and other teams, that will be on the receiving end of a Surrey victory. We just have to dust ourselves down and go again. It's now about how we bounce back."

Sadler felt one of the main reasons Surrey were able to take control of the match on the Friday morning was that the Northants bowlers had simply run out of steam.

The County went into the Surrey game having bowled for 225 overs straight in the drawn game at Essex the previous weekend, as they tried to push for victory.

After winning the toss at the Oval, Sadler and skipper Ricardo Vasconcelos made the decision to bowl, and although the head coach felt that was definitely the right call on a lively pitch, the Essex exertions did catch up with his players.

"There was the cumulative effect of how much time we had in the field in the Essex match, where we fielded two days back-to-back,” said Sadler, who has rested Ben Sanderson and Tom Taylor for the clash against Warwickshire.

"We did decide to bowl first at Surrey, and I still think that was the right call on that pitch, and we bowled well that first day.

"We were neck and neck with them and the next morning we got two early wickets and we were so close to Surrey being on the back foot and being under pressure.

"If we bowl them out for 300 then it is a very, very different game.

"But our lads, they kept going but I think they just ran out of gas.”

The batters then also struggled, and Sadler put that down to the quality of the Surrey bowling.

"Their bowlers were fresher, they had a yard of pace, and they were a bit taller which meant they hit the pitch a little bit harder,” he said.

"It meant there was a little bit more uneveness throughout. But they played well and deserved to win.".