Sunday, 18 August 2013

Willey the Conqueror

Anyone with even a passing interest in Northamptonshire’s county cricket team woke up this morning feeling unusually happy. Over 20 years without a major trophy ended yesterday at T20 Finals Day as the boys in maroon went ballistic in Birmingham.   As the commentators never stopped reminding us, Northants were outsiders, they had no big names, they’d barely won a game in this competition in the previous two seasons – and to be fair they did have a point. Northants have been rubbish at limited over cricket for so long it just seemed the natural order of things, like the nights drawing in and leaves falling from the trees. But some canny recruitment and the emergence of a major local talent have changed all that.

For how long – who knows? This IS Northamptonshire after all. But it was great viewing, enriched by the Sky boys choking on their predictions. Nasser Hussain was in the saddle as the semi final started to come to the boil.  Every Essex dot ball or diving stop was greeted with glee and you sensed he was just a key wicket away from running on to the pitch to join in the celebrations.  “Northants need a big over!!” he declared. Northants came up with about three in a row, scattering the spectators whose fancy dress costumes didn’t render them immobile. Essex then conceded 8 off a single ball and the bowler looked like he was about to weep. “The wheels have come off!!” was the final contribution from Nass before being led away.     

That was good but the final was even better and surely the highlight was the contest between David Willey and Jade Dernbach, which Willey won about 36-0.  For the uninitiated, Jade is actually a boy and as if to prove it is lavishly inked in warrior style tattoos. He gave Willey some lip each time another awry offering was smashed for six, when a period of silent reflection might have been more appropriate. Perhaps he was saying, huh, at least it didn’t go for 8. Up in the commentary box, they struggled to find positives to describe Dernbach’s spell of 4-0-55-0, though good old Athers had a go, praising the “good comeback” as the decidedly ex international ended with a delivery that (a) hit the cut strip and (b) didn’t go to the ropes.

In contrast Willey’s career prospects look a lot rosier after he followed his turbo innings with a hat trick to finish the game. If he played for Surrey he’d already be an international (exhibit A: Dernbach) and the worry now has to be that they or someone equally wealthy will tempt him away. Winning £200k yesterday might help Northants to compete for his services. And maybe ensure that this trophy isn’t a glorious fluke and we don’t have to wait another 20 years.


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