With four defeats from five matches – all inside three days – and having failed to challenge for the Royal London One-Day Cup knockout stages, it’s been a poor 2018 so far – but the batting of Ricardo Vasconcelos is cause for optimism.
Vasconcelos, born in South Africa to Portuguese parents, made an excellent impression on his County Championship debut against Leicestershire with two carefully-compiled innings of 49 and 37, showing the composure and appetite for batting required in first-class cricket.
So how did he end up on a two-year deal in Northampton?
“I was playing for Boland down in Paarl,” said Vasconcelos. “Our coach down there is Johann Louw, who used to play for Northants. He knew I had a Portuguese passport and got hold of Neal Radford – the former England international bowler – and that kicked things off.
“David Ripley then spoke with Richard Levi and Rory Kleinveldt about me and luckily I got an offer I couldn’t turn down.”
Vasconcelos, a left-handed wicketkeeper-batsman, was signed as batting cover but Northants’ injury crisis offered him the chance of a debut at Worcester in the One-Day Cup.
“The guys have made it very easy to settle in, it’s a family-type club,” said Vasconcelos. “It was nice to get a go in the one-day cup that I didn’t think I was going to get, unfortunately I couldn’t really grasp the chance but it was nice to get a debut.
“I’m loving it so far, it’s a step up from playing at Boland so hopefully I can get going here.
“There’s a much quicker turnaround between games here, you tend to have at least a two or three day break between every game in South Africa but here you can playing one day, then the next, changing formats too, so it’s definitely something to get used to.
“Initially this first year was going to be me just getting settled in, I wasn’t expecting to get much of a chance in the first team but luckily I’ve been handed an opportunity so hopefully I can cement my place in the team and it can be the start of a long career.
“A few runs against Leicester is a start and a place where I can kick on from and hopefully be the start of something good.”
Northamptonshire beat Leicestershire by two runs in a thriller in the county’s first pink-ball Championship fixture last summer, with Ben Duckett, Alex Wakely and Rob Keogh all scoring centuries.
Play will begin slightly earlier than last year, at 130pm, meaning a scheduled close of 8pm.