Wakely: Unity will be key for Northants during new season

Alex Wakely (left) scored a half-century in a recent friendly with Middlesex (picture: Peter Short)

Alex Wakely (left) scored a half-century in a recent friendly with Middlesex (picture: Peter Short)

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Skipper Alex Wakely believes the tight-knit nature of Northants’ squad can help the county make their mark this season.

With the budget at the County Ground having shrunk once again ahead of the new campaign, Northants will again rely on a small pool of players.

But there is plenty of quality in the ranks, and South Afrian duo Richard Levi and Rory Kleinveldt arrived to bolster the group this week.

Northants, who reached the final of the NatWest T20 Blast last season, have kept the majority of the squad who did well in all formats last season.

The loss of England star David Willey is a blow, but Wakely is confident in the men he has at his disposal.

And ahead of the first County Championship Division Two game of the season at home to Sussex on Sunday, the captain said: “I’m genuinely really excited about our squad.

“I keep telling everyone all of the time that I believe we’ve got a good enough squad to compete with any team, especially in division two.

“A lot of the focus has been on one-day cricket and we’ve got a very strong side for that.

“The main issue that has been well documented is how small a squad we’ve got and it goes without saying that we will need a bit of luck with injuries.

“But I’m genuinely excited about it and I believe we can beat anyone in any form of cricket.

“A club like Northants, with limited resources, has got to look at what it’s strengths are and I believe one of ours, and a reason we have done so well, is how close a group we are.

“It’s very rare, from what I hear from other counties, how close we are.

“A lot of us have come through and known each other since we were 13 and the times when it gets tough, that’s when it counts.

“When you’re with your friends all the time and you’re doing everything together, those moments can be made a bit easier and it’s definitely an advantage we’ve got.”

Northants finished fifth in County Championship Division Two last season and with only one team going up this time round, they will have to up their game significantly.

Sussex, who were relegated from division one last season, will provide a tough opening test.

But Wakely, who scored a half-century in recent friendly against Middlesex, said: “From what I’ve seen of the squads, I think it will be quite close this year.

“All of the squads in division two are fairly similar and it’s going to come down to who can have their strongest side playing all of the time.

“Sussex have got an advantage that they can rotate bowlers and we don’t have that, but we’ve got to make the most of what we’ve got, and that’s that we all play for each other and we all enjoy each other’s success.”