If they had avoided a five-point deduction for a slow overrate at Trent Bridge, Northants would have pipped Notts for promotion. As it was their final victory had a bittersweet taste
Northants 202 (Procter 82, Raine 5-54) and 197 for 4 (Procter 94) beat Leicestershire 128 (Sanderson 5-39, Gleeson 5-49) and 270 (Cosgrove 80, Kerrigan 4-62)
Northamptonshire’s ninth victory of the season, completed with some ease in benign batting conditions at Grace Road, had a bitter-sweet element for the men from Wantage Road.
Events at Hove, where Nottinghamshire needed only to draw with Sussex to confirm they would take the second promotion place from Division Two, meant that Northamptonshire finish the season third – and it will be little consolation that no team has made more of its’ collective ability.
Northants were left to particularly rue the five-point deduction suffered after defeat at Trent Bridge in late August for a slow over-rate. It was a tough time for Northants in the field as they suffered several injuries, including that of the captain Wakely, with Rory Kleinveldt taking over, and to bowl in stifling conditions on the hottest spell of the season.
Without that penalty, however, Northants would have finished level on points with Notts – and ahead of them on wins.
As for Leicestershire, they were consigned to a winless season.
Northants head coach David Ripley said: “We’ve really played well through the back end of the season, in some adversity, including in this game with losing Rory Kleinveldt.
“It is frustrating that nine wins isn’t enough, especially with the points deducted in Nottingham – we deserved the deduction, but the circumstances were extraordinary.
“The bowlers did a remarkable job, Richard Gleeson at the end of the season has been outstanding, Ben Sanderson has been Mr Consistency, and Rory Kleinveldt has taken 50 wickets – winning games is about taking 20 wickets, and more often than not we’ve done that.
“We’ve got some good players, and they’ve all contributed, but of there’s an area we’re looking to improve it’s in the batting and turning good scores into big, match-winning scores. We’re talking to Luke Procter – we need to recruit someone who can challenge our batters for a spot, and him coming in would do that.”
Perhaps in sympathy, the conditions were very much in favour of the visitors, as has been the case throughout this game. Batting has been at its most difficult in the first hour or so of the morning, when the ball has swung and seamed, so the fact a saturated outfield outfield prevented play starting until 12.40pm was ideal for Northants, who began the day needing another 180 to win with ten second innings wickets in hand.
By the time play began, a bright sun had taken any menace out of the atmosphere and indeed the pitch. Northants did lose Rob Newton, the opener pushing lazily at a wide delivery from left-arm seamer Dieter Klein to edge a catch behind, but Procter and Wakely added 121 for the second wicket in good time and – an early possible run-out of Wakely aside – without real alarm before Wakely top-edged a pull and was well caught by Sam Evans at deep backward square.
Two more wickets fell after the break, Richard Levi palpably leg before swishing across the line at Callum Parkinson – the young left-armer very much one of Leicestershire’s few positives this season – and Procter, with a hundred very much on the cards, also leg before to a Raine delivery that kept a little low.
Procter, on loan from Lancashire, had a fine match at the top of the order, dismissed only once in making 176 runs.