'Calm and controlled' Vasconcelos delighted with his start to the season
Ricardo Vasconcelos believes he has matured as a batsman and feels he is in the form of his career to date.
The opening batsman has already rattled up two big centuries this season, and is averaging a whopping 70.72 in first-class cricket - the second best record in the country behind Durham s David Guy Bedingham.
In six matches so far he has hammered 493 runs, and is well on the way to becoming the first Northants player to reach 1,000 County Championship runs in a season since Ben Duckett in 2016.
Vasconcelos was well on course to achieving four figures in 2019 before his season was cut short by an ankle injury, and the 23-year-old feels he is better nick this season than he was then, when he scored two centuries and three 50s in total.
Asked about how well he feels he is currently playing, Vasconcelos said: “I would say that 2019 comes pretty close, but I think I am more in control of what I am doing at the moment.
“I am more calm at the crease, and I am not thinking about too many steps ahead.
“I am staying quite present, which is a bit of a new thing for me, and I think I have matured in that sense, in the way I am batting.
“For me, this is the best I have been playing for a while.”
The South African-born left-hander has certainly wasted no time clicking into gear, and part of the reason for that could well be the national lockdown that was enforced in the UK in January to try to combat Covid-19.
The decision by the UK Government meant that Vasconcelos had to delay his return to Northampton, and instead of a pre-season in the indoor school at the County Ground, he was able to get out on the grass under the Johannesburg sunshine.
Asked if he was expecting to have started the season so prolifically, Vasconcelos said: “I don’t know if I imagined it going with two scores that high, but I did think I would hit the ground running.
“I had a really good winter in South Africa, that ended up being quite a bit longer than I had originally planned for with all the flights being cancelled and everything else.
“So that was a blessing in disguise for me, because I could still go training outside while everybody here in the UK was locked away.
“So in that sense, I was maybe a couple of steps ahead of everyone in their preparation, and I knew I was ready and raring to go.”
The batsman’s two big centuries - 154 versus Kent and 185 not out against Glamorgan - have both come at the County Ground, but he was denied the opportunity to add to them at the weekend as the match with Lancashire was ruined by rain.
Just 34.3 overs were possible across the four days' play at Wantage Road, with Lancashire closing on 88 for one.
Vasconcelos and his Northants team-mates will be keeping their fingers crossed for better weather on the south coast later this week when they travel to Hove to play Sussex.
And the opening batsman is hoping he can now start to take his County Ground form on the road as well.
“I have always enjoyed playing here (at home),” admitted Vasconcelos. “ I think I have got most of the 100s I have scored in England at this ground.
“I find the wickets here are suited to the way I play, and long may that continue!”
And asked if he is concerned by a lack of centuries coming on the road, he added: “It’s not something I worry about.
“I would like to convert my starts that I get, and I think in the past I have got a lot of scores between 50 and 80.
“So I would like to convert a few more of those, and it is something I have been trying to do. So far this year I have done that, although I got two 40s at Headingley.
“One of those was a stupid run-out, a bit of a brain fade, but the other one was a good ball, and you can’t protect yourself from getting out from everything.”
Northants go into the Sussex match in fourth place in Group 3 of the County Championship, and 22 points behind second-placed Yorkshire and 25 off leaders Lancashire.
The County hammered Sussex at Wantage Road three weeks ago, and will be aiming to claim a quickfire win double as they look to close the gap on the top two who play each other in the Roses match at Old Trafford.