VIEW FROM THE BLUES: Rain saves the day, but Crook injury casts a dark cloud

Northants all-rounder Steven Crook
Northants all-rounder Steven Crook

If Northants are struggling with financial problems then Leicestershire are certainly struggling with everything else to do with cricket.

With just three first-class wins in three years, they were suitable visitors to Northampton this week for the championship match as the huge distraction of Finals Day hung heavy with anticipation.

David Ripley had the chance to rest a few but chose to play a strong side in search of a high finish in division two.

It proved a bad decision, as big-match player Steven Crook received an ankle injury after a nasty boundary accident.

The likes of Rory Kleinveldt, Crook and Ben Duckett should not have played against Leicester in my opinion. We simply don’t have the squad to take any risks.

The match was good fun on one of the more competitive home wickets of the season, as Northants enjoyed warm sunshine batting first up but lost early wickets.

Leicestershire are not quite a one-man team, but Australian Clint McKay is an impressive bowler, soon having the home team at 113 for five with some skilled swing and seam bowling.

But Alex Wakeley was in the mood, and perhaps the relief of Duckett and Rob Keogh re-signing for next year after the blow of losing David Willey relaxed him.

He helped himself to a rare home century, indeed I believe it’s his only Wantage Road ton - but it was certainly his best.

There was good middle order support on a pitch still offering something, and Northants closed the innings on 325.

McKay collected his third five-for for the season and also brought his 50 wickets up.

We went for McKay a couple of seasons ago and should go for him again, he is an excellent all-round cricketer.

Batting is Leicestershire’s neon-sign weakness, with only Niall O’Brien averaging 40-plus.

After being bowled out in every one of their London Cup games and seven times out of the last 10 championship innings for fewer than 200, they chose to hit their best first-class innings for three months against a bowling attack that had Edgebaston on their minds.

If Mackay is their bowling kingpin, then big Mark Cosgrove is the batting lynchpin, the Leicestershire captain responding to Wakeley’s ‘leading from the front century’ with a grueling five-hour ton.

O’Brien justified his 40 average with a breezy 95, and McKay was back in the action with an unbeaten 50 as the Foxes made 372 all out.

Conceding a fourth batting point from 105 for five was not the worse news of the day, as Crook picked up that injury.

Northants batted poorly second time up on what was still a decent pitch, with an under-the-weather Duckett failing for the second time in the match.

He joined David Murphy at the crease, and I believe this was the first time any Northants side had opened the batting with two wicketkeepers, with Murphy taking guard at number one after Rob Newton picked up his 10th injury in five years with that broken thumb.

Newton really is an inconsistent batsman, and it is so frsutrating.

Another player underperforming in the eyes of some is Richard Levi, but he delivered second time around here with an unbeaten 50 as Northants recovered from 111 for six to take the game into the fourth day.

For Leicestershire, the returning Wayne White claimed a five-for and he is a man who can be really good or really bad - he was a bit of both this match.

He has been out there looking lost for a while in county cricket, but I think he’s the type of bowler we should go for.

One of many quirky contradictions of cricket saw a few hardy punters turn up hoping for it to rain all day on Monday with Northants 112 ahead with one wicket left.

It did raain all day, and Northants took their unbeaten run to eight games going into Saturday’s NatWets T20 Blast Finals Day with a lucky draw as just eight overs were possible, with Leicestershire well set for victory on 30 for one.

But injuries and fitness issues cost both teams, with a total of 33 players and staff doing fielding duties during the match!

These included Ripley and Leicestershire assistant coach Keith Piper. We even had some young lad from the office on!

One or two wheezing gatemen were looking pensive as the call went out for able bodies.

Whatever happens at Birmingham on Saturday, I do feel we have performed well above average this season, and the fans are pleased with the team spirit and effort.