By Neil Fissler
Darren Cousins admits that it was a dream come true helping Northamptonshire win the first ever Second Division title.
Northants had thrown Cousins a career lifeline after he was released by Essex in 1998 following six operations in seven seasons.
He had been due to join Surrey in 2000 until Northants offered him a two-year contract and he repaid their faith in him with 67 wickets.
Cousins said: “I was heartbroken when I was released by Essex in 1998 and in 1999 I was trialling and trying to get back into the game playing 2nd XI cricket and stuff like that.
“I was a punt by Bob Carter basically, they offered me a contract on my work ethic – they knew all I wanted to do was bowl.
“I wasn’t even in the side when we went down to Somerset for the first game in the B&H because they thought that Richard Logan would get more runs.
“Paul Taylor went to take a catch and his knee locked. It was like when I got injured at Essex and Ashley Cowan came in and took his chance. I got a bit of luck this time.
“And the rest is history. I had one of those seasons where all the hard work came to fruition, it was a dream come true.
“After I got into the side I could see that Bob believed in me. I was a poor man’s Angus Fraser, all I wanted to do was run in and bowl.
“I hated fielding and batting bored me. All I wanted to do was bowl every ball as if it was my last.”
Cousins was the club’s leading wicket-taker while Jason Brown chipped in with 47, and Graeme Swann with 41.
Combining that with Matthew Hayden scoring 1,270 runs at 57.72 helped Northants to 188 points, 23 more than Cousins’ former county Essex.
Cousins added: “Jason Brown came in for the second half of the season and took a lot of wickets and that made a tremendous difference.
“He got nearly 50 wickets in not that many games. It was a good team and, apart from Matty Hayden, there were no superstars.
“Bob Carter got everyone working together. It was very structured. I was lucky I bowled at the other end to Devon Malcolm who was still quick and had that fear factor.
“Hayden had a great season. He was very strong and led from the front. Tony Penberthy was Mr Reliable, Mal Loye would get scores.
“Jeff Cook from Australia was a very under-rated player while David Sales could take the game away from someone.”
BACK ROW (left-right):
Michael Strong: A fast bowler who went into teaching and is currently head of geography and sport at Downs Malvern Prep School.
Monty Panesar: The England spinner could be returning to Northants after being released by Essex.
John Blain: A Scottish seamer started out as a professional footballer with Falkirk. Joined Yorkshire’s coaching staff and is now director of cricket at Grange CC.
Darren Cousins: Seamer is now back living in his native Cambridge and has worked in sales and as a valuer for an estate agents.
Richard Logan: A seamer who went into coaching and is now general manager for the KP Foundation and director of luxury travel company Cachét Leisure.
Martyn Dobson: Batsman. Now head of community development at Leicestershire and Rutland Cricket at Grace Road.
Toby Bailey: A wicketkeeper/ batsman went into coaching and coached Argentina. Is now Scotland’s performance analyst and fielding coach.
Rob White: Batsman who, in 2002, scored 277 in a single day against Gloucestershire. Was released by Northants in 2012.
Kirk Russell: Went on to become physio to the England cricket team and now runs Kirk Russell Physiotherapy in Bath.
Jason Brown: Spinner was in training to become a plasterer but is now working as a technical engineer.
David Sales: A batsman who retired in 2014 and since then has done some coaching work.
Alec Swann: Batsman brother of Graeme went into the media. Is head of editorial planning and production at The Cricketer.
Jeff Cook: The all-rounder is now back living in his native New South Wales where he has worked as a cricket development manager.
Robin Sutcliffe: Seamer who is now back in his native Hemel Hempstead where he runs his own consulting business.
Graeme Swann: England spinner has worked in the media since retiring from cricket during the Ashes whitewash in December 2013.
Michael Davies: Former England A spinner has been a senior sales rep for Roche Pharmaceuticals for the last five years.
Dave Roberts: A batsman who has been playing as a professional back in his native Cornwall.
Kevin Innes: A seamer back in his native Northamptonshire where he is the county’s elite performance and fielding coach.
Bob Carter: The former head coach is now New Zealand Cricket’s high performance coach.
Devon Malcolm: England fast bowler is now a director of DEM Sports which manufactures cricket ground equipment.
Mal Loye: The opening batsman has coached at Wellingborough and Oundle School. Now Bangladesh’s High Performance programme head.
Tony Penberthy: All-rounder is now the managing director of Market Harborough-based MOprojects Group, a bespoke joinery and interior fit-outs company.
David Ripley: Batsman/wicketkeeper stayed on at Northants where he ran the academy before becoming head coach in August 2012.
Paul Taylor: England fast bowler has been Surrey’s director of cricket development since April 2005.
Russell Warren: Batsman. Now an umpire in the Notts Premier League and is on the ECB’s reserve umpire list.
Adrian Rollins: The batsman brother of former Essex cricketer Robert went into teaching and is the deputy head of The Pingle School in Swadlincote, Derbyshire.
Nick Cook: Former England spinner went into coaching but is now standing on the first class umpires list.
Mark Powell: A batsman is now an audit and accounting specialist with RSM UK in Bath after previously being with PwC in London.
Matthew Hayden: Australia opening batsman is now managing director of a Brisbane based media business and a talent agency.
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