Rushden's season to rebuild is boosted by a surprise win
It's fair to say that the Northants Cricket League Premier Division has a slightly unusual look about it after seven weeks of the new season.
There are some welcome new names at the top of the table with Oundle, who have enjoyed a superb start, sitting at the summit while Rushton are second.
But there has been a surprise at the other end as well with 2015 champions Rushden having endured a real struggle so far.
But their season burst into life last Saturday in one of the shock results of the campaign so far as they secured a fine four-wicket success at Peterborough who had started the day on top.
It turns out this is very much a season for rebuilding at Short Stocks after the departure of a number of key players, including former skipper Simon Branston.
Ben Paine has taken over that role and was understandably delighted with a welcome first win of the season at Bretton Gate as Chanaka Ruwansiri (80) and William Bates (36) led their team to 214-6 as they chased down Peterborough’s total of 210-8.
And while Rushden’s current position, second-from-bottom but now 27 points clear of struggling Wollaston, may be a surprise to most, Paine insists the season is going pretty much as was expected.
“This year was always going to be tough for us,” he said.
“We had five first-team players leave us and there were some big names in there, including Simon, so it was bound to have an effect.
“So our aim for the year was to regroup. We are looking to push some younger players into it and the aim for us from the start has been to make sure we don’t go down.
“But I would like to think we can still push on into the mid-table area.
“We just played really well on the day last weekend, it was the first time this season that the batsmen and bowlers have taken responsibility.
“Hopefully that win can be a springboard for us for the games coming up.”
Taking on the captaincy isn’t something completely new for Paine, whose team take on Northampton Saints this weekend, and he insists he feels comfortable in the role.
“It was always going to be hard because players get used to hearing a voice and now, all of a sudden, they are hearing a different one,” he added.
“I have captained in the Twenty Cup before so it’s not totally new to me. I am happy to be doing it and hopefully I can lead the boys in this season which is all about rebuilding.”