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Northants season preview

A long season in prospect at Wantage Road

Boje: in charge

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Northamptonshire start the season in familiar territory, mired in the lower tier of the county championship with minimal prospects of promotion.

Former South Africa spinner Nicky Boje has taken over as captain in succession to David Sales, who chose to end a four-season stint at the controls to concentrate on his batting.

The squad is further weakened by the departure to Surrey of Usman Afzaal and the refusal of the ECB to accept the registration of ICL rebels Andrew Hall and Johan van der Wath.

Last season's overseas player, Australian batsman Chris Rogers, has joined Derbyshire. In his place South African seam bowler Johan Louw returns to the county after four years away.

Spin friendly

While Louw is a welcome addition, the bowling looks weak, especially when Monty Panesar's likely absence with England for long periods is factored in.

Without Panesar, the slow bowling duties at the always spin-friendly Wantage Road fall to Boje and Jason Brown, while at least one of seam bowlers Richard Logan, David Lucas and David Wigley needs to step-up in 2008.

The Steelbacks lost their Pro40 League top-flight status in a play-off, a bitter note on which to end their 2007 season.

Promotion in the Pro40 is the most likely avenue for success, while an improved showing in both the FP Trophy and Twenty20 Cup - both disaster areas in 2007 - should not be hard.

Big year for: David Sales - Sales stated his reason for stepping down as captain was to concentrate solely on batting in the hope of realising his England ambitions. The right-hander, who scored 1,384 runs in the championship last season, will have pile up an even bigger run mountain if he is to get on the selectors' radar.

Rising star: Alex Wakely - The England Under 19 captain is a rare local talent and has the all-round ability to minimise the impact of the ECB's refusal to register Hall and Van der Wath.