Northamptonshire were at odds of 34-1 to win Division Two before the 2019 season began. They had a lot of work to do to get into the top three.
Things didn’t get any better when Ben Cotton was released after not managing to “reach fitness targets”.
I had them as the sixth best team in early April. Here’s what I said on the twitter:
Not a bad side, but off the pace of the top of Division 2. A batsman light, better balanced with Bavuma replacing Holder on 14 May. A shallow squad – @NorthantsCCC may have to prioritise the competitions where they have the best chance of progressing.
Now they are on the cusp of reaching Division One. Just four points from their game against Gloucestershire will secure promotion. What happened?
Ricardo Vasconcelos, Adam Rossington, Rob Keogh, Nathan Buck all averaged ten or more runs above expectation.
The team as a whole averaged 53 runs per innings more than expected. I think that Rossington, Keogh and Buck had good years, and wouldn’t be expected to repeat that in 2020. Vasconcelos though. 21 years old, already has a First Class average of 37. How good could he be in a few years time?
It’s rare for a team to just have one player underperform with the bat (see the recent Ashes series). 35 batting points is the highest in the league.
Ben Sanderson was always a candidate to dominate Division Two. His opening partner Brett Hutton has been the surprise package. A career average of 29 pre-summer, yet he picked up 35 wickets at 19.
Sanderson couldn’t do it on his own, Keogh, Procter & Buck bought their wickets at too high a price: without a second top bowler, it’s hard to see how Northants could have picked up five wins.
3.Sussex, Middlesex, Worcestershire
What happened guys? If time allows I’ll have a look at why these teams misfired. They are better than Northants.
What happens next?
If you believe Northamptonshire’s players have made technical changes, and they’ll play at the same level in 2020, then they could do OK in Division One. Maybe Rossington’s captaincy has made a difference.
Personally, I think there will be a lot of pressure on Sanderson, Hutton won’t repeat the heroics of this summer, and Northants won’t win many games next year.