Alec Swann - Anybody still in the dark?

Northamptonshire Telegraph's sports writers Jon Dunham, Jim Lyon and Alec Swann.
Northamptonshire Telegraph's sports writers Jon Dunham, Jim Lyon and Alec Swann.

If there were any doubts as the size of the challenge facing Northamptonshire this season they should now have been well and truly consigned to the dustbin.

The battling draw against Durham was one thing, but the innings and 120-run drubbing at Headingley another entirely.

Outbatted, outbowled, outcaught, outplayed, outclassed.

That may seem like a particularly harsh assessment but given that the head coach was the one providing the commentary on his side’s skills - if not the overall conclusion - it’s fair to say it should be taken at face value.

And what it has done is provide the County with a wake-up call that couldn’t be more abrupt, a klaxon in the ear stating the all too obvious, that you’re with the big guns now and it’s time to make the step up.

It would be easy to go down the complacency route and accuse them of taking the task too lightly and failing to recognise just what they are being faced with but this would be wide of the mark and a direct poke at their professionalism.

They do their homework and prepare diligently so there has to be more to it.

It could be that a decade in Division Two has softened the senses to the point where a tough assault breaches the defences too easily.

But even that could be putting two and two together and coming out with an answer of five.

Maybe it’s the manner of their success last year has convinced them that the jump up isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, that the divisional gap is some kind of urban myth designed to intimidate.

But I would be loathe to go down this road as it would be a touch insulting.

So what does that leave?

It leaves the simple fact of standards.

Division One, and this is already evident after just a couple of games, contains better cricketers, stronger teams, more depth and fiercer competition.

There’s no cloak and dagger to it and there never will be.

This is what was envisaged when the divisional structure was introduced, an elite tier to produce a more robust competition and international standard players.

Northants have gone from the intermediate to the top set and they need, no, must, get their game in line or they’ll be chewed up and spat back out to where they came from.