Northants can bounce back - Hall
Skipper Andrew Hall has backed Northamptonshire to put their disappointments behind them when they again attempt to gain promotion to Division One of the LV= County Championship in 2012.
The Wantage Road club finished just a point behind second-placed Surrey in Division Two this year, having suffered a similar fate in 2009 when Essex pipped them to second spot.
Northants’ most recent near miss was all the more galling given the excellent start they made to the season.
At the beginning of June they were 26 points clear at the summit and unbeaten in both four-day cricket and the Clydesdale Bank 40.
Another victory followed in their eighth championship match, against Leicestershire, but by that stage the club had tasted a number of defeats in the Friends Life t20, something Hall believes proved significant.
“We started off the season exceptionally well, which is something we had been speaking about and wanted to do,” the veteran all-rounder told ecb.co.uk.
“We played really good cricket, but then we didn’t quite get our feet right with the Twenty20 - we didn’t play a very good brand of cricket and sort of let ourselves down, and from then on we struggled to find our rhythm again and get back to winning ways.
“That wasn’t ideal for us and then at the back end of the season we had a couple of opportunities where I felt we could have won games and we ended up getting draws out of them.
“For me it’s about making sure that come next season the guys are really focussed and we get ourselves over this hurdle of just falling short.
“The biggest thing for me is that we’ve been so close now two years out of three, in 2009 and 2011. That makes it a bit difficult. It’s a little frustrating, but the guys have been working really hard and talking about it, and I feel confident that it is something that is certainly behind us.”
Returning to the subject of the club’s disappointing t20 campaign, which saw them muster just two wins in 13 completed group games, Hall said: “We sort of got high, so to speak, from the other games we had played and how well we had played.
“We might have got a little ahead of ourselves at that stage and took our foot off the gas in certain aspects, thinking that because we had played so well things were just going to fall into place for us.
“Other teams came out and played really well and put us under pressure. After that it sort of stagnated for us. We had to really work hard to get our momentum back.
“We very much need to improve our performances in the Twenty20. I think we let ourselves down this year and our fans so that’s definitely something that we are looking to improve.”
Although Northants were ultimately left disappointed this summer, Hall could once again take heart from a strong personal campaign.
The 36-year-old, who played in 21 Tests, 88 one-day and two Twenty20 internationals for South Africa between 1999 and 2007, chipped in with 61 wickets across all forms, yet it was with the bat that he really excelled.
A tally of 960 first-class runs at an average of 50.52 ensured he topped Northants' averages and he believes only the team’s fantastic early form prevented him from reaching the sought-after 1,000 mark.
“I’m batting really well. I’ve spent a lot of time with Dave Houghton as well as David Capel and they help you,” said Hall.
“I was unhappy with the fact that I couldn’t get to 1,000 runs again, but I still managed to top the batting averages and score pretty much 100 runs more than anyone else.
“Because we won so many games by an innings, I probably batted a little less than others, but that’s always good. I don’t mind those things.”
Should Northants finally secure a top two finish in 2012, you imagine Hall will not mind how many runs he scores.