1. ITV Report

Northamptonshire prepares for new cricket season on and off the pitch

Northamptonshire's cricket season gets underway on Friday 5 April. Credit: ITV News Anglia

After two profit making seasons in a row Northamptonshire County Cricket Club is on course to be debt free by 2020 according to their chairman.

Their 2019 campaign starts on Friday 5 April at the County Ground. They hope the financial improvements will help provide success for the cricketers on the field which were lacking last year.

Northamptonshire County cricket captain Alex Wakely expects standards to rise when they play in this season's Vitality Blast T20 competition, as players cast their minds towards the new 100 ball tournament in 2020.

The draft for next year's new addition to the domestic calendar - dubbed 'The Hundred' - is scheduled for the end of the 2019 campaign.

And Wakely believes players will 'raise their game' in the hope of being taken on by the eight franchises involved.

"Last year we invested 25% extra in cricket - over £350,000 extra - and as the scored reminded me it was the worst season we had since 1978.

"The team has worked really hard in the winter and we're really excited.

"I made a statement to say we'd be debt free by the end of 2020 and we are well on target to do that. We may do it three months early."

– Gavin Warren, Chairman, Northants CCC
  • Click to watch a report by ITV News Anglia Sport Correspondent Donovan Blake

Although the structure of the competition has yet to be finalised the England and Wales Cricket Board announced details of the format of the matches.

They will be made up of ten 10-ball overs, which can be bowled by one or two bowlers, in clutches of either five or 10 consecutive balls.

Trialled in September, it has been introduced as part of a new ECB five-year strategy for the game.

Captain Alex Wakely said: "We still don't really know what's going to happen. It's a really exciting time as a player though. It's a new competition everyone wants to be involved in.

"There's financial opportunities for people to be able to earn more money, as well as their county contracts. So from a player point of view what else have you got to look more towards than that."

Last season was the worst for Northamptonshire County Cricket Club since 1978. Credit: ITV News Anglia

"I think this year you're going to see more pressure on players, in the T20 competition because the 'draft' for the new competition is going to take place at the end of the year so everyone's going to want to perform. which can only make the standard better.

"I think every single player in our dressing room is going to want to be able to put on one of those eleven jerseys to play in the T20 competition just because everybody wants to be involved in the new one.

"And that can only be good. It can only mean that our performances are probably going to be stronger, with the pressure that you put on yourselves.

"Hopefully the younger players will put pressure on some of the senior players. I think you'll see the standards being better this year in the T20 competition."

– Alex Wakely, Captain