Northants head coach Sadler setting his sights on success in 2024

​Northants go into the new cricket season with success on their minds.
Northants head coach John Sadler is targeting success in both red and white ball cricket in 2024Northants head coach John Sadler is targeting success in both red and white ball cricket in 2024
Northants head coach John Sadler is targeting success in both red and white ball cricket in 2024

​And head coach John Sadler is setting his sights on serious progression for the club in both red and white ball cricket.

Last season was a tough watch as Northants finished rock-bottom of the LV= Insurance County Championship Division One.

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The summer ended with the team getting relegated having won just two matches all season, while there wasn’t a lot of cheer in white ball cricket either.

The Steelbacks invested heavily in T20 player recruitment, with David Willey returning from Yorkshire and taking over the captaincy.

But the team struggled to fire as a unit as they failed to reach the knockout stages of Vitality T20 Blast, and they also missed out on qualification from the group stage in the Metro Bank One Day Cup.

There were some high points of course, with pace bowler Jack White the standout performer in the Championship as he claimed 50 first-class wickets, but nowhere near enough as the County underperformed in all aspects of the game, in all formats.

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The season of disappointment sparked a winter of some change at Wantage Road.

Senior players such as Josh Cobb, Gareth Berg and Tom Taylor all departed, along with batting coach Ben Smith and his counterpart in the bowling department, Chris Liddle.

Replacing the players that left the club are top order batter George Bartlett from Somerset and Derbyshire fast bowler George Scrimshaw, while the batting line-up and bowlers are now under the stewardship of Greg Smith and the returning Rory Kleinveldt respectively.

For the T20 campaign, veteran all-rounders Ravi Bopara and Sikandar Raza will join the ranks when the competition gets underway at the end of May, while Australian bowler Chris Tremain and Indian batters Karun Nair and Prithvi Shaw are booked in for what is hoped will be productive stints.

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Sadler is certainly pleased with how the winter has worked in terms of recruitment, believing competition for places is now stronger than it has been during his time at the club.

And he is confident the results will show on the pitch, as he targets promotion back to the top flight of English red ball cricket - and a much-needed qualification from the North Group of the Blast.

"We have a point to prove, and we want to bounce back up and we want to win this division," said Sadler when asked about his hopes for the four-day game.

"It is important not to set your sights too far away, and we have to focus on this first block of games, and then the next block of games and break it down.

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"But the obvious target as a club is promotion, and it would be fantastic to challenge for that.

"It would be nice to be in a position going into the last month of the season, and the three or four games then, that we are challenging to go up.

"There is a really good connection within the group, the lads are all playing for each other and that is a real focus of ours. So I am really pleased with everything, we are in a good place."

Switching his thoughts to the T20, Sadler accepts that what has been offered up in recent seasons has not been good enough, but he is confident things will change in 2024.

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"Other than the Covid year (2020), when it was a different set-up and different tournament, the club hasn't got out of their group since they won it in 2016," said the head coach.

"That is a sign of where we have been with white ball skills, and it's a sign that we need to change how we do things a little bit.

"The signs have been there that we are improving, and in the past two years we have gone into the final group game which a chance of getting to the knockout stage, and we probably should have done two years ago.

"The club has been known as a good white ball side in the past, but in recent times we have not been as good as we should have been.

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"But I feel we are in a strong position this year where we can mount a real challenge."

There is a real sense of expectation among Northants supporters that they will be at the top end of the division two table, having spent the past two seasons in the top flight.

Indeed, thanks to the two Covid-affected seasons, Friday's trip to Sussex will be the first time the County have played a second tier match since their promotion in 2019, but Sadler believes it is going to provide a stiff test for his side.

And it does look a strong section, with fellow relegated side Middlesex aiming to be in the promotion mix, along with fallen giants Yorkshire and Sussex, while the likes of Leicestershire, Glamorgan and even last year's bottom-markers Gloucestershire are making noises they are chasing a top-two finish.

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Unlike division one, everybody also plays each other home and away, but Sadler believes his squad can handle the workload.

"It is going to be a very tough division," admitted the head coach.

"There are some high quality players and some high quality teams, and it is a long old season, and I know we will have to play some good cricket. I am confident we will do that.

"I expect high standards, the standards we have been showing in pre-season has been very high, and all we can do is focus on what wedo.

"If we do it well, then teams are going to have to play really well to beat us."

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