Seamer Sanderson excited by Northants' new-look bowling attack
Ben Sanderson believes Northants have got a bowling attack capable of making serious inroads in the upcoming 2021 LV= County Championship campaign.
The County get their red ball season underway in three weeks’ time when they host Kent at Wantage Road.
In what is another new format this summer, following on from the first Bob Willis Trophy that was held at the back end of the Covid-hit 2020 campaign, Northants are in Group 3.
They have been grouped with Yorkshire, Lancashire, Glamorgan and Sussex as well as Kent, and each team will play each other home and away before moving on to four-match end-of-season play-offs, that will be dependent on where teams finish in their group.
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The top two from each group qualify for Division One play-offs, third and fourth for division two and fifth and sixth for division three.
The winner of Division One will be crowned the 2021 LV= Insurance County Championship winners, with the top two in that division also contesting the five-day Bob Willis Trophy final in late September.
Northants, who have never won the County Championship, will be aiming to be a competitive force, and when it comes to the bowling, pace-ace Sanderson believes David Ripley’s men are looking very strong.
“It is probably the first time we can say that in quite a while, although obviously it was disappointing to lose Brett Hutton as he was a very good operator,” said Sanderson.
“But we have signed Tom Taylor who is a very skilful bowler and I have been impressed with him this winter.
“Then we have the likes of Brandon (Glover) and Bucky (Nathan Buck), who is probably bowling the best I have ever seen him bowl at the minute.
“The reports on him are that he is bowling really well, and then there is Jack White who came on leaps and bounds last year and there is real competition for places.
“It also means that hopefully we will be able to rotate and give people a rest when they need it, and that ensure that we keep that high performance level.”
Northants have also acquired the services of South African left-arm seamer Wayne Parnell for all competitions, and Sanderson added: “We have got variety in our attack as well which we have also probably not had in recent years.
“We have a bit of pace, we have Wayne Parnell with his left-arm, and then Kegsy (Simon Kerrigan) with his spin as well, so it has the look of a real bowling attack and it is quite exciting.”
Sanderson is also a fan of the format for this summer, and said: “It is quite interesting because we will still be playing against some of the bigger teams such as Kent, Yorkshire and Lancashire who are division one teams.
“And then we have other teams who we have been playing against regularly in division two, so you are getting a mixture of both so it will be good to see where we sit in the pecking order with that.”
So what is the target for the team?
“I have hardly seen Rips this winter, and we have not really had any team meetings to talk about things,” said Sanderson, referring to the fact the players are still training in smaller groups due to Covid restrictions.
“I would expect us to be at least aiming to finish in that sort of top group, in the top two or three and to get into the play-offs if you like.
“That’s a reasonable aim for us, to get up there with the best.”
So what about that pre-season preparation this winter?
The players had to look after themselves as they were on furlough until January, but they have since been split into groups where they have worked with with specific coaches.
Sanderson and the bowlers have been with bowling coach Chris Liddle, and the 32-year-old seamer admitted that although it has been strange, it has had its benefits.
“It has been a bit different, and due to the Covid restrictions we have been in small groups, and the squad is still split in two at the minute,” said Sanderson.
“I have only seen half of the squad maybe once since last season, so it has been a bit different but it has also been alright
“It has meant you have probably had more time to work on your skills on a one-to-one basis, and it has been a bit refreshing instead of the day in, day out grind that you normally get in the winter, so it has gone pretty well.
"All the bowlers started in a small group with Lidds, and it is the first proper winter we have had with him really.
“He has been good, brought some new ideas and challenged us in different areas, so hopefully our skills will be better for that.”
Northants are hoping to get outside to use the nets at the County Ground at the end of this week, although the current un-spring-like weather is not helping with that!
They play their first friendly at Hampshire next Thursday, and Sanderson said: "They are hoping for us to get out at the end of this week, and it will still be a bit juicy then but that will be good for us bowlers!
“It still feels a bit weird that we will be playing in a few days, especially with the weather the way it has been, but we are off to Hampshire next week.
"I won’t be looking forward to standing out there if it is cold and windy like this!
“Will need the hand warmers, and have to sneak some gloves down to fine-leg!”