Northants bowler Sanderson frustrated, but is determined to take positives from cricket shut down

Northants pace bowler Ben SandersonNorthants pace bowler Ben Sanderson
Northants pace bowler Ben Sanderson | jpimedia
Ben Sanderson is determined to look on the bright side despite being denied the chance, for now at least, to prove his worth in the top flight of English cricket.

The 31-year-old had been looking forward to testing himself against the best batsmen the English game has to offer this summer, following Northants’ promotion from Specsavers County Championship Division Two last season.

Indeed, last week he should have been running in to try and take down former England captain Alastair Cook as Northants were supposed to be facing county champions Essex at Wantage Road in their first home game of the season, and they should have today been starting the final day of another home clash with Kent.

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But those matches didn’t take place, and those big plans have been put on hold for Sanderson, along with every other cricketer in the country, due to the coronavirus pandemic sweeping the globe.

Ben Sanderson has been one of English cricket's leading wicket takers for the past two seasonsBen Sanderson has been one of English cricket's leading wicket takers for the past two seasons
Ben Sanderson has been one of English cricket's leading wicket takers for the past two seasons | jpimedia

The sporting calendar has been decimated and it has been confirmed there will be no professional cricket played in the UK until July at the earliest, with the ECB stating priority will then be put on the staging of white ball competitions, with the Vitality T20 Blast top of the list.

The first nine rounds of the 14-match County Championship have now been called off, meaning that competition is almost certain to be scrapped this season, and that is a frustration for Sanderson.

The seam bowler has been the County’s standout performer with the ball in the past two first-class seasons, claiming 60 division two wickets in both 2018 an 2019.

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Last summer he was the third highest wicket-taker among English seamers in the country, behind only Durham’s Chris Rushworth and Ollie Robinson at Sussex.

He was hoping to have a crack at the division one batsmen in 2020, and although it is likely that is now not going to be the case, Sanderson is not going to get too down about it.

“It is a big blow, because I really wanted to challenge myself in division one,” said the pace bowler.

“But you have to try and take the positives out of these things, and it may now make me a better T20 player if we don’t have to play Championship cricket, because I would be a bit fresher.

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“If we do end up playing just T20 cricket, or just the white ball competitions, it could give me the chance to show off my skills more in those formats.

“I am trying to stay positive, and will just work on things that I can.

“Something I have always tried to do is improve myself, and learn different things, and that’s what I will try and do.”

Another concern is that there is currently no guarantee there will be any cricket played at all in 2020.

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That is still the worst case scenario, and hopefully it won’t come to that, but how would Sanderson react to effectively losing a year out of his career when he is arguably at the peak of his powers?

He wouldn’t be happy about it, but again prefers to take a positive perspective on things.

“It is almost a case now of, what can you work on, that you normally don’t have time to work on?” said the Yorkshireman.

“For me, it is about my body, which is getting a little bit of a breather for a season, so that might extend my career a year on down the line.

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“It might make me fitter for next season to be able to kick on and maybe bowl quicker.

“It is all about picking those little goals that can hopefully make you better for the season after if it does come to that (not playing at all).

“Hopefully it won’t happen and we do see some form of cricket this summer, which I think we might do.

“If there is no cricket though, a lot of lads will disappear in the winter if they are allowed to, and go to South Africa or Australia, and it could even give me the opportunity to do that, because I will have had a big rest.”

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Sanderson put pen to paper on a new two-year deal at Northants in December, and it’s fair to say his signing in 2015 was something of a masterstroke by head coach David Ripley.

The Sheffield-born bowler had been playing for his local club side Rotherham and minor counties cricket for Shropshire while also working as a builder.

He jumped at the chance to resurrect a first-class career that had looked over when he was released by Yorkshire in 2011.

“It has worked out perfectly for both parties I would think,” said Sanderson, who freely admits he didn’t exactly have a stack of offers coming his way before the County made their move.

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“I have enjoyed my time at Northants, hopefully they have enjoyed having me here, and long may it continue.”

Having been out of the full-time game for those four years before signing for Northants, it means there is still plenty of gas in the tank for Sanderson, and he admits he still has hopes of one day representing his country.

“I would love to take a step up even further, but who knows?” he said.

“All I do is turn up every game and do what I am doing, and if that gets me further then it is a big bonus, but I try to keep myself level-headed.

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“A big one is Ollie Robinson down at Sussex, who is probably a similar bowler to myself, and he has been getting his rewards and being picked up (Robinson played for England Lions last year).

“So it does prove that if you work hard and you are doing well, they will look at you, and that is all I can keep doing.”

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