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As captains go, Northeast, a man of independent nature, had quite an input, playing a leading role in selection, recruitment, contracts and admin, while churning out middle order runs and, well, being the captain. As batsmen go, data analysis has 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.