The Supporters Club are donating £2825.22 to the County Club for the purchase of a K-Box. This is a portable device which is used in the strengthening of both the lower and upper body. We presented the cheque for this at the November Supporters Club Lunch.
The 2024 season fixtures are out, and the County Ground sees a very early start with Oxford UCCE visiting for a match which commences on Tuesday 26th March. The opening County Championship match against Sussex starts at Hove on Friday 5th April. The first home match against Middlesex commences exactly one week later. The Vitality Blast opens on Thursday 30th May at home to Derbyshire. The following Sunday 2nd June sees a County Ground double header with Sunrisers v Northern Diamonds at 11.30, followed by Northamptonshire v Yorkshire at 3.30pm.
Derbyshire are also the first visitors in the One Day Cup on Wednesday 24th July. The season ends at Headingley with a Championship match starting on Thursday 26th September.
Once again this is a packed West Stand Story with no space for me to complete the write up of the Second Eleven and Northamptonshire Women’s team’s respective seasons. Hopefully next time!
May I wish all of you the complements of the season.
Rob Keogh has been awarded a Testimonial Year in 2024. Keogh made his Northamptonshire debut in 2010.
Young Raphael Wetherall has signed his first professional contract with Northamptonshire. The 19-year-old pace bowler is a graduate of the county’s academy. This is a rookie contract until the end of the 2025 season.
David Willey has announced his retirement from international cricket. The announcement was made midway through England’s difficult World Cup campaign and followed the news that the ECB had not awarded him with any form of central contact. He appeared for England in 43 T20 internationals and more than 70 ODIs.
Hasan Azad and Harry Gouldstone have both left Northamptonshire at the end of their respective contracts. Gouldstone, whose father Mark also represented the County made 7 first-class appearances over four seasons. Azad joined Northamptonshire for the 2023 season and made 9 County Championship appearances.
Chris Liddle has left his position as Northamptonshire’s Bowling Coach to take up a similar role with the England Women’s team. Liddle joined the County’s coaching staff in 2020.
NUMBER 220 REMEMBERED – DEREK BRIDGE
Manchester born Derek Bridge made three appearances for Northamptonshire in the 1947 season. On his debut he hit an unbeaten 25 against South Africa and on his final appearance took 2-14 against Warwickshire at Edgbaston with his off spin.
Bridge went on to play Minor Counties cricket for Dorset, captaining them between 1954 and 1966. He also served as secretary and president for this county as well as President of the Minor Counties Cricket Association between 1997 and 2002. Derek Bridge died at Builth Wells on 13 March 2012 at the age of 90.
NUMBER 221 REMEMBERED – LEWIS SMITH
Lewis Smith enjoyed a successful debutagainst the 1947 South Africans taking 4-55. He also appeared in a Championship match against Hampshire that same season but that was it for his Northamptonshire career.
Brentford-born (on 12th July 1913) 0Smith appeared for Middlesex in several 1930s matches but was more regularly seen in Club cricket. During the Second World War he was a regular member of the London Counties XI.
Lewis Smith died at Ealing on 10 September 1978.
BISHEN BEDI 1946-2023
In late October we received the sad news of the death of former Northamptonshire and India spinner Bishen Bedi.
Bedi was a key member of the India team which claimed a first Test Match (and series) victory in England in 1971. Following this he accepted a three-year contract with Northamptonshire and claimed 75 wickets in the 1972 season.
In 1973 he did even better with 100 wickets. In all across his six-season career for the county Bedi claimed 434 dismissals at an average of just under 21.
His batting was less celebrated, but he did manage to get over the 1000 run mark in 110 first-class matches. Perhaps his most vital contribution was to hit the winning boundary (off the penultimate ball) in the 1976 Gillette Cup semi-final against Hampshire at Southampton.
The final of that competition was to see Lancashire’s David Hughes hit 26 from the 60th over, bowled by Bedi. Despite this Northamptonshire ran out winners to claim their first ever trophy
Bedi was one of several players who left the County after the 1977 season. His international career continued until 1979.
For his mastery of spin. For his applauding of a batsman who hit him for six. For his (sometimes) controversial views. For his many coloured patkas.
The cricketing world is a duller place for his passing. Bishen Bedi deserves to be remembered. May he rest in peace.
IT’S A FUNNY OLD GAME
That master craftsman goal scorer Jimmy Greaves once said football’s a funny old game. Well, 2023 cricket has shown itself to be a crazy, entertaining unpredictable game.
The drawn Ashes series when England recovered from 2 down is one example. The success of England’s approach threw the Aussies whose saviour was the Manchester rain. Certainly, many Australians will rant about the change of ball at the Oval.
Sri Lanka’s women surprised England in the T20 internationals and England beat Australia’s women in both the T20s and ODIs.
Then there is Northamptonshire’s perplexing season, starting moderately with defeat at Canterbury and an inspiring victory over Middlesex, after which the wheels came off, and captain Luke Procter was absent through injury.
By the end of May, the prospects of survival in division one looked minimal. The best fixtures for a chance of success were Kent at home and Middlesex away. There were hopes of bonus points in the other matches, but batting points were rare, and the bowling did add a few.
After a middling T20 campaign where there was little consistency and wins sometimes came down to an individual e.g., Saif Zaib’s gem of an innings at Derby, the resumption of the championship saw an overwhelming loss to Kent, ending with an entertaining partnership between Ben Sanderson and Jack White featuring the latter’s maiden first class 50.
Batting points were gained scoring 342 at Old Trafford and after the Surrey and Essex games to finish the season a further 6 points accrued.
Following the travails of the spring, incredibly the deciding factor was the Warwickshire match. I missed Ben Sanderson’s hat trick but watched nervously as Michael Burgess edged Warwickshire towards victory. The game was up when he began to clear the boundary, and the vital 16 points were gone after a 2-wicket defeat although the bowlers had worked manfully.
By the end of May, after 3 innings totals below 100, relegation looked likely, with no obvious wins in sight from the remaining fixtures, but neither Kent nor Middlesex forged ahead despite occasional success. September seemed to be four matches to experiment with selections for the second division campaign to come.
The home defeat to Lancashire provoked a reaction which saw a narrow loss at Edgbaston, asking champions Surrey to follow on at the Oval. Finally, runners up Essex were beaten by an innings. The final table revealed we finished a mere 8 points, a draw last season, behind Middlesex who went down too. The final blow for me, was that although our batting had only yielded 10 points, Middlesex had 5.
Relegation means I can’t say better luck next time, but some feel we are promotion favourites next season.
I shall wait until spring to see if the batting has improved and our bowling relies less on White and Sanderson, a partnership which has developed well.
WINDIES AT WANTAGE ROAD
Thanks to astute scouting by Northamptonshire, Curtly Ambrose was signed to our county ahead of wealthier counties, but perhaps we were prepared to take a chance on a man who would become one of the greatest fast bowlers. Research astounds me as he was 25 when he came to Wantage Road.
We had the fastest bowlers since Tyson, as Winston Davis was with us too, but the one overseas rule meant they could only play together in ‘other matches’ e.g., tourist or friendly fixtures. Winston was a significant contributor to the successes of 1987, forming a fine pace partnership with David Capel. Curtly started with a disappointing B&H defeat against Kent but became an important part of the team.
My clearest memories of Curtly’s were from a NatWest tie at Worcester, and one of his final championship games at home to Sussex.
The first was a low scoring, gripping quarter final which featured the host’s Neal Radford taking 2 for 3 in 8 overs with 6 maidens. Northamptonshire totalled 128 and the hope was that our bowlers would use the conditions well. They did, and curtly took 3 for 16 and Kevin Curran 0-24 both from 12 overs. Unfortunately, Worcestershire won by 2 wickets, admittedly with 89 balls to spare.
The second game was against Sussex and finished with a narrow 28 run first innings lead. Paul Taylor started the rot with Curtly and from 80-5 they subsided to 112 all out. Curtly bowled with deadly accuracy and extreme pace and finished with 10.5-2-26-6! A 6-wicket win followed.
Winston Davis had also bowled well alongside David Capel and contributed much to the season of two cup finals in 1987. He always generated pace from what looked no more than a medium pacer’s run up. It was so sad a fall from a tree while clearing land to build a church in St Vincent left him tetraplegic. He lives in Worcestershire now and it was good to catch up at a T20 match there.
When Curtly toured England with the West Indies in 1991, Eldine Baptiste did a good job as his replacement, bringing his all-round skills to the county.
Mustn’t forget Roger Harper whose all-round skills were compelling. He did share overseas duties with Winston, and it must have been a difficult decision leaving him out of both one day finals in 1987. His fielding was phenomenal, and he patrolled one side of the pitch alone in a 40 over game at Maidstone faultlessly. His batting was recklessly aggressive so often, and Sussex’ John Barclay remarked being hit by Roger’s off spin was much like by one of the West Indies quicks.
Only Franklyn Rose and Jason Holder come to mind in recent years. The former played in 1998 and the latter a very short, injury marred spell at the beginning of 2019. Oh, for the days of overseas playing a full season!
All lunches start at 1pm unless otherwise stated.
Thursday 14th December 2023: Alan Fordham – 12.30 pm
Thursday 25th January 2024: Lewis McManus
Thursday 29th February 2024: Andrew Radd
Thursday 28th March 2024: Fans Forum
The price per person of the December lunch is £20. Price to increase in January.