Sam Alexander Northeast
October 16, 1989, Ashford, Kent
Right hand bat
Right arm offbreak
Middle order batter
Sam Northeast's departure from Kent to Hampshire was one of the more fractious transfers of 2017. Northeast had become a sought-after county commodity. Kent demanded he committed to a new contract to retain the captaincy, Northeast refused and, piqued, moved to Hampshire. A year later, Northeast had endured a moderate debut season at Hampshire and Sam Billings, his successor as Kent captain, had led the county back into Division One.
Northeast had been marked out as a cricketer with leadership potential from an early age, and Kent put their faith in him by naming him as their captain in all competitions for 2016 in succession to Rob Key, a long-serving captain and mentor. He responded with runs galore, attracting praise from all corners. Well, all corners except England, who even after his move to Hampshire remained unimpressed.
As captains go, Northeast, a man of independent nature, had quite an input at Kent, playing a leading role in selection, recruitment, contracts and admin, while churning out middle-order runs and, well, being the captain: a new Kent management team wanted to clip his wings. As batsmen go, data analysis had consistently suggested during his early captaincy years that he had few peers in the English game in any format. Yet despite churning out the runs Northeast has never been recognised with an international call-up, or even a place in the England Lions. Until he played in a North-South pre-season challenge in the UAE in 2017, he had been out of the England system since he played at Under-19 level in 2009. In that North-South series, he batted once, made 118 not out, then picked up a hamstring injury that ruled him out of the rest of the tour.
Northeast first came to prominence when as a 13-year-old he scored 19 hundreds in a term, and he continued that form at Harrow where he was in the first XI at the age of 14 and more than held his own. Such was his talent that Kent sent coaches to work with him rather than asking him to travel to Canterbury, and he picked up a string of national awards, including a Bunbury scholarship.
An all-round sportsman, he was a national schools rackets champion, a county squash player and cross-country runner, and good enough at football and rugby to have been offered county trials. In 2005 he made his Kent second XI debut against Durham and scored 96, as well as playing for England Under-15s. In 2006 he was included in a strong Getty XI against the touring Sri Lankans, scoring 62.
He enjoyed an excellent tri-series in Sri Lanka in 2007 - putting on 152 with Billy Godleman in one of the matches - and was part of England's Under-19 World Cup squad in 2008. He travelled with the Under-19 squad to South Africa in January 2009, and was also part of the group that played Bangladesh at home in July. His county career began to develop promisingly too, and he scored his maiden first-class century, against Gloucestershire, at the end of the 2009 season. He solidified his place in 2010 despite struggling in the Championship, scoring 688 runs at 24.57, though he was hardly the only Kent batsman to suffer a lean season, and by the following year was an established member of their line-up.
It was the 2012 season that appeared to be Northeast's coming-of-age campaign, however. Still only 22, he first had to fight his way back into the Championship side, after being dropped to the seconds, and responded with a string of good scores. Come the end of the season he had accumulated 880 second division runs at an average of 55, with three hundreds and five half-centuries. In all competitions his run tally finished just short of 1,400 and he was rewarded with Kent's batsman of the year award. A maiden one-day century against Sussex came the following year.
Northeast's 2014 season felt like a watershed. Despite an elevation to the vice captaincy, he was briefly dropped to the 2nd XI following a dismal start to the Championship campaign which saw him score just 178 runs in his first 12 innings at an average of 15. But he was recalled against Leicestershire in July and responded with four hundreds - the first of them ending a two-year drought. Previously tried as opener and No 3, he seemed more at home at No 5. Runs were also plentiful in the limited-overs formats. His career was finally underway.
Northeast's captaincy appointment had always seemed a matter of time - his name was being murmured around the county while he was still a schoolboy - but he did much to cement that reputation as he led an exciting Kent limited-overs side in 2015 which, although finishing trophy less, won many plaudits.
Northeast himself scored more than 2,000 runs in all competitions, a reminder of his gilded reputation as a youngster. He led the county's run-scoring charts in Division Two of the Championship with 1,168 at an average of 46.72, and, nationwide, only James Vince and Michael Klinger scored more heavily in the NatWest T20 Blast. It was time for him to be given the job for which he had long seemed destined.
He approached the task with energy on and off the field, making five Championship hundreds and heading a spirited Kent promotion challenge which only foundered - Essex taking the single promotion place - late in the season. Kent's continuity seemed assured, as long as the county could keep pace with his ambitions. Another promotion challenge foundered in 2017, despite another high-scoring season which resulted in an average above 50, inviting the thought that Kent might struggle to satisfy him forever.
His first season at Hampshire was quiet, with just 451 runs in the Championship, but he recovered to hit 969 in 2019 as his new club finished third in Division One.
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