Vasconcelos says Northants aiming to be County Championship contenders

Ricardo Vasconcelos is excited by the new-look LV= County Championship format - and insists Northants have got their sights set on being serious contenders for the two trophies on offer.

Friday, 26th March 2021, 12:16 pm
Ricardo Vasconcelos hits a boundary on his way to 30 from 44 balls before retiring on the first day of the County's pre-season friendly at Hampshire (Picture: Peter Short)

As the English game continues to battle with the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, the return to a two-divisional Championship has been put on hold for the 2021 season, just as it was last summer.

That has been a disappointment for Northants who were promoted to the top flight in 2019, but Vasconcelos admits he is excited at the schedule for this summer.

The Championship will see three groups of six, with the sections being sorted out by seedings based on previous performance, rather than regionally as they were in last season’s Bob Willis Trophy.

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Ricardo Vasconcelos in action during the Bob Willis Trophy clash with Glamorgan last August

After a 10-match group stage, the top two will go on to a four-match play-off to play for the County Championship crown, with the winners of that group being named the outright title winners.

The top two of that mini league will also go on to play for the Bob Willis Trophy in a grand final at the end of September, and Vasconcelos is aiming high.

Northants have been grouped with Yorkshire, Lancashire, Kent, Sussex and Glamorgan, and the South African said: “I really like the new format, and it will be nice to play against some new teams that we haven’t played against recently.

"There are some big names that we should be playing against, and it is always nice to test yourself against the best.

Ricardo Vasconcelos

“I am really looking forward to it, there are two trophies to play for there and we are not going into it just to take part, we want to compete for those.

“So, yeah I am really looking forward to getting going.”

Vasconcelos feels Northants are in good shape going into the new campaign, particularly after the emergence of players who were given a chance to shine in the five-match Bob Willis Trophy last summer.

“We have a strong squad, and I am certainly glad I am not picking the team,” said the 23-year-old.

“Last year there was a lot of rotation, and there were a lot of guys taking their chances.

“The likes of Charlie Thurston, Ben Curran and Emilio Gay all got runs, and then Jack White was in the wickets, and these were guys who weren’t really playing the year before.

“It is going to be very interesting to see what they do, but that makes for a good squad, it creates competition and competition is always healthy, because it pushes everyone to be better.”

Vasconcelos is also looking forward to, and keeping his fingers crossed for, a full summer of cricket.

The left-hander burst on to the scene in the 2019 season and was flying towards 1,000 first-class runs until an ankle injury ended his campaign prematurely.

Last summer, as with every cricketer across the globe, Vasconcelos’s career was put on hold by Covid-19, and the fact is he has played only a handful of matches in the past two years.

“It has been a bit frustrating, because you want to make the most of things while you are still young,” he said.

“You want to make a name for yourself, you want to move up the ladder and pecking order as quickly as possible, but everybody is in the same boat.

“You just have to control the controllables, and do the only thing you can, which is when you do get the opportunity you take it with both hands, which hopefully I will do.”