Season review: Northants have become masters of battling adversity

They may not have the biggest bank balance, but this season Northants have showed they are a county with a huge heart.

By Tom Vickers
Thursday, 1st October 2015, 7:00 am
Northants reached the final of the NatWest T20 Blast (pictures: Kirsty Edmonds)
Northants reached the final of the NatWest T20 Blast (pictures: Kirsty Edmonds)

David Ripley’s men brought the curtain down on a valiant campaign with a typically brave display at Surrey last week.

In a way, it was a microcosm of their season as they found themselves in a sticky situation and dug their way out of it.

Northants have become masters of battling adversity.

Alex Wakely epitomises Northants' powers of recovery

From monetary strife to on-pitch struggles, Ripley has shaped a squad capable of overcoming such issues.

They do not have the financial firepower to trouble the top counties in the four-day game, but they have given them more than a run for their money in the shorter formats.

In the Royal London One-Day Cup, the Steelbacks only missed out on a quarter-final place on run rate, cruelly denied by a final-game wash-out at Yorkshire.

And that they were even in with a shot of making the last eight come the last game of the group stage was amazing, considering they began with defeats to Durham and Surrey.

Muhammad Azharullah celebrates a wicket in the NatWest T20 Blast group game against Lancashire

They endured an even worse start to the NatWest T20 Blast with a drab defeat at Durham followed by losses to Warwickshire and Worcestershire.

But back they came again, winning seven of their next 11 games to move into the quarter-finals.

There, they overcame a cash-rich Sussex Sharks side, which contained the likes of Sri Lanka star Mahela Jayawardene and Australian ace George Bailey.

David Willey, whose aggressive, never-say-die attitude, epitomised the Steelbacks, sunk the Sharks with a blistering 40-ball hundred.

Rory Kleinveldt has been a key figure for Northants

And then it was on to finals day in the exceptional coliseum that is Edgbaston, where the hosts and holders, Birmingham Bears, were beaten.

Northants couldn’t quite get over the line in the final as Lancashire’s expensive import James Faulkner flexed his muscles, but Ripley’s side had shown their spirit.

Built in the image of their captain, Alex Wakely, who overcame last season’s injury woe to return to skipper the side this season, the Steelbacks really did show their steel.

And in the Championship, a creditable fifth-placed finish was achieved, which was good for a small squad and a necessary focus on money-spinning white ball cricket.

Although Willey and a few others will now move on, the on-field future continues to look bright for the county.

Ben Duckett, one of the stars of the season, and Rob Keogh have signed new deals, while the likes of Olly Stone and Saif Zaib are also showing huge potential.

Wakely’s steady hand continues to steer the ship, with Ripley, another man ingrained in the history of the club and an impressive talent nurturer, at the helm as head coach.

So while there has been plenty of doom and gloom about that much-discussed bank balance, the character and class shown by the Steelbacks has managed to eclipse it.