Sussex v Kent, Specsavers Championship Div Two, Hove, 3rd day April 16, 2017

Northeast for England! But is anybody listening?


Kent 304 and 413 for 5 (Northeast 173*) lead Sussex 291 by 426 runs

Sam Northeast's reputation seems consigned to Kent © Getty Images

"Northeast for England!" It's one thing for Kent fans to chant for their captain (and, to be fair to them, they've been singing that for a while). But when those chants are coming from his own dressing room, it does strike a different note. As Sussex slinked off when bad light ended play, Kent's players, with a 426-run-lead in their step, were in full voice. They, more so than the fans, are annoyed he has been overlooked for as long as he has.

Sam Northeast, a decorated youth cricketer, an England Lion and a regular "well what about" selection in many an England XI thrashed out over beer-soaked tables, must be close to the real thing. And it's innings like today - a barbaric, unbeaten 173, which saw him race to 37 from 23 balls to quell Sussex's early attack, before bringing up three figures in 123 balls - that will push him close to the front of the queue. It was his 17th first-class hundred and, remarkably, it is hard to peg this as his most devastating.

Naturally, Northeast was fairly chilled about England talk, happy to let his record do the talking - 1,474 Championship runs since the start of 2016 at an average of 77.6, if you're wondering. "There are a lot of people in my position around the counties," he said. Kent seamer Mitchell Claydon, within earshot, interjected: "Not with 18,000 effing runs in a year-and-a-half,". Northeast laughed: "See what I have to put up with?"

Considering Northeast's hot streak started during his first full season as club captain and that his role at Kent is wide-ranging - he plays a prominent role in team meetings, player contracts and overseas recruitment - it says a lot about his character that the extra distractions seem to have focused his work out in the middle.

During the North-South series in the UAE, in which he scored a century in the second match, he had chats with Andy Flower and England assistant coach Paul Farbrace. There was a chance for a catch-up with Flower today: the ECB technical director was at Hove and spent time talking to Kent's coach Matt Walker. Northeast, of course, was otherwise occupied.

His England claim is not just limited to one format. Recently, he has been one of the standout domestic Twenty20 batsmen in the world. Across the last two seasons in the T20 Blast, he has scored 1,103 runs at an average of 40.9. It is telling, too, that when analysts involved in recruitment for franchises across the world crunch the numbers in search of the most valued picks, Northeast's name often makes an appearance.

But, for now, the England Test side need a middle order batsman. And as well as Northeast's free-scoring nature aligning with Trevor Bayliss's blueprint for the Test side, he would also bring with him a knack for big runs. Including today, his last six Championship hundreds have all exceeded 160. He does not have a double hundred to his name - 191 against Derbyshire and 190 against Sussex, both last season, are as close as he has come - but looked like he was on the way to addressing in the final session on Sunday, hitting two sixes and a four in the last four balls of the day to take him to 173 off 181 balls.

He shared a stand of 123 with opener Sean Dickson which put Sussex in their place and then one of 161 inside 27 overs with Darren Stevens (71) that whipped them into submission. Sussex, a bowler and ideas light, simply had to accept the punishment that was being dished out. Together, Stevens and Northeast put on 52 off the last five overs.

But without Dickson's patience, Kent would be a long way from the position they currently occupy. His grafting 68 gave Darren Stevens and Wayne Parnell a platform for their 123-run stand in the first innings. Disappointed he was not able to convert that to three figures on day one, it looked like he would get there in the second innings.

He was in complete control, knocking the ball about diligently to get to 89 but, again, fell short after being trapped in front by Ajmal Shahzad. When you consider he suffered a recurrence of the hamstring injury that kept him out of the opening fixture against Gloucestershire, it was a remarkable effort from the 25-year-old. Just as every good band needs a reliable bassist, Dickson's calm and diligence allowed the more flamboyant around him to flourish.

It's still a good pitch, as Northeast and Stevens showed by the way they were able to hit through the line so well. "It would be nice if it was a bit cloudy in the morning," said Northeast. "We've got a good bowling line-up here, with good variations and we'll try a few things out there tomorrow."

Vithushan Ehantharajah is a sportswriter for ESPNcricinfo, the Guardian, All Out Cricket and Yahoo Sport

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • chatfo2917686 on April 19, 2017, 8:04 GMT

    That division 2 runs are easier has come up with Carberry, Vince and Duckett. It's true, though. Yes, there are good bowlers, but most teams don't have depth to their attack .

    The problem selectors have is deciding whether a batsman scores runs because he's in division 2 or whether he's a run-scoring batsman that happens to be in that division . Vince encapsulates the problem. He has the ability to be a test batsman, but he has to learn to be more patient than he needed to be in division 2.

    At the moment the selectors do seem willing to look at division 2 if they have a problem position. Long may that continue. I don't want cricket to follow football where relegation means a mass exodus of leading players. We are seeing it with the weaker Division 2 sides, but the stronger still keep their players.

    Kent supporters should remember what Ed Smith once said. A county's dream player is one who is good enough for England but who is never selected.

  • John on April 19, 2017, 2:02 GMT

    @RICHARDROR - he has played for the Lions. It's unfortunate that he's come up in the same age group as Root, Bairstow, Stokes, etc. I would put Sam in the same category as James Vince...a late bloomer who may or may not be international quality but a very good pro. England is starting to see some batting talent shine thru so he may never get the chance to get selected.

  • Richard on April 18, 2017, 8:50 GMT

    CRICFAN74822000 and Philander, Viljoen, Wiese, Coles and Parnell although the latter two will be playing for Kent of course

  • kenned2901317 on April 17, 2017, 19:40 GMT

    Well division two now has, irrespective of international call-ups, James Patterson, Jake Ball, Stuart Broad, Graham Onions, Mark Wood, Chris Rushworth, et al. so watch this place (as they say) regarding Northeast's abilities...

  • Stuart on April 17, 2017, 13:06 GMT

    After the way they came after Durham, it seems that the ECB aren't that bothered about the North East.

  • michae7471641 on April 17, 2017, 8:17 GMT

    So the conventional wisdom is being recycled yet again. Ansari, Ballance and Batty weren't exactly overwhelming recent cases in point favouring the choice of division one players for international cricket. Class will out whatever the level, whereas players without the requisite skills or learning capabilities either won't make it to the top or stay there for very long. But yet again, it's revealing that Westley is already getting more column inches for a cameo innings against a moderate Somerset attack than he did around this time last year, when he was actually playing a good deal better in various forms of cricket. It's not Northeast's fault his team (unlike Westley's) is still in division two, but if the England selectors are worthy of the name they will give him a proper chance to see what he can do. They've already done a great deal worse - quite often as a matter of fact. I've seen Northeast bat very well and he's an excellent player who understands the game.

  • Mark on April 17, 2017, 8:12 GMT

    @CRICFAN5415767004, Wait until he faces Notts or Durham, if he gets runs against either or both that will really hammer home is credentials. His blast and North V South form also makes his case.

  • andrew2711976 on April 17, 2017, 7:59 GMT

    Great that he's challenging for a test or ODI place but, as he rightly observes, so are a number of other batsmen. These days, there a fewer opportunities as new players are given a fair chance to secure their place. We could go back to the days when all sorts of players got a couple of tests and were then discarded but that seems neither sensible nor likely and good players will therefore go through their careers without getting international recognition. It isn't in the least bit 'shocking', nor is it a 'disgrace' (words frequently bandied about under articles like this) but merely a natural consequence of a more rational and successful approach to selection.

  • John on April 17, 2017, 7:52 GMT

    He deserves a chance. Hope he grasps it when it comes.

  • antonn8616850 on April 17, 2017, 6:45 GMT

    This nonsense about facing division 2 bowlers is daft - this article alone mentions examples where he's excelled against bowling attacks of elite level, or close to. The lad is talented - celebrate him rather than find a reason not to. And I'm a SA supporter (who, admittedly, lives in Kent, so am biased, yes...!).

  • No featured comments at the moment.