After a dismal Winter for the national team, the English domestic season is already upon us and Northamptonshire will be looking to improve on a disappointing 2017 campaign. We sit down with local fan James Gray who discusses what to expect in 2018.
County Championship: Third - Division Two
Royal London One-Day Cup: Eighth - North Group
Natwest T20 Blast: Sixth - North Group
IN: Brett Hutton, Luke Procter and Ricardo Vasconcelos
OUT: David Murphy and Azharullah
What are your hopes for the County Championship, the Royal London One-Day Cup and Vitality T20 Blast this year?
I'm hoping for big improvements across all three formats! Two aspects of our game let us down last season - our batting and our fitness levels. We looked in a strong position to qualify for the T20 finals day only to slip away in the last few matches of the group stages. Everything looks great when our big-hitters reach the ropes but we aren't great at simply dropping and running.
Batting also let us down in the County Championship. We finished third but got less batting points than all but Glamorgan. We need to get better at creating partnerships in the longer format of the game and combine this with our potential in T20 to improve on just one win in the Royal London One-Day Cup last year.
Will the addition of Luke Procter have a positive impact?
Luke is likely to be an invaluable addition to our small squad. He has the ability to bat for long periods and should provide a solid balance alongside the attacking players in our team.
Will you miss Azharullah following his release?
Azharullah always had the ability to come on and pick up a timely wicket but age is against him so it is perhaps the right time for him to move on. I am excited by the signing of Brett Hutton, who has a point to prove to his former club Nottinghamshire, and hoping he can be just as dangerous as Richard Gleeson who must be close to an England call.
Who is your key player for the season?
At just 23-years old, Ben Duckett is a hugely talented batter. However, he must not let success go to his head as he did towards the end of the year. For all of Duckett's fantastic strokeplay, the drink incident with James Anderson during the Australia tour in December will do him no favours. He has a bit of a point to prove this season.