Wakely captained an unfancied side to 2013 and 2016 titles
Alex Wakely, who captained Northamptonshire to two T20 titles, has announced his retirement from all forms of professional cricket with immediate effect at the age of 32.
A hard-working middle-order batter in all formats, Wakely became Northants’ white-ball captain in late 2012. The club were in the midst of a financial crisis – Gavin Warren, the chairman, admitted they were “counting every loo roll” – but embraced a data-driven approach in both playing style and recruitment and shifted their training focus towards T20 cricket.
The results were immediate: Wakely led them to the Friends Life T20 title in 2013, missed the 2014 season through injury, led them the final in 2015, and won back the NatWest Blast title in 2016. Alongside Nottinghamshire’s Dan Christian (2017 and 2020), Wakely is one of two men to captain a winning side in two T20 finals in county cricket.
While their batting was largely powered by the six-hitting prowess of Richard Levi, Cameron White, Ben Duckett, Josh Cobb and David Willey, Wakely performed an important role in the middle order, epitomised by 59 not out off 30 in the 2013 final and two gritty rebuilding efforts on Finals Day in 2016.
Wakely also captained the Championship side from 2015, when he was awarded the captaincy across all formats, and after two seasons of treading water, declared in 2017 that he was “fed up of being average”. He led a promotion charge which fell five points short, but a lean 2018 and a poor start to 2019 saw him stand down as captain across formats.
His returns with the bat tailed off during 2020, as he made 11 runs in his only Bob Willis Trophy game and was dropped from the T20 Blast team following 91 runs in 108 balls across seven innings. This season, he played the opening game of Northants’ Championship season, making 4 against Kent, and was promptly left out for the second round of games.
“I simply have nothing left to give and it’s time to move on,” Wakely tweeted. “Although I will always feel I could have achieved more, I am very proud of my achievements and the memories of lifting those two trophies at Edgbaston will live with me forever. That’s what I always played the game for.
“It makes my decision so much easier knowing that the club is in a strong and stable position and that the talent sitting in the dressing room can take the club to the next level. This has been the toughest decision I have ever had to make but I am now looking forward to spending some time with my family who have sacrificed so much to let me pursue my dreams, especially my wife Tash who has been my rock throughout all the tough times.”
Wakely was earmarked as a player with captaincy potential when he led the England in the Under-19 World Cup in 2008, but further representative opportunities eluded him. He retires with 6,880 first-class runs at 31.27, 2,532 List A runs at 32.88 and 2,597 T20 runs at 26.23 and a strike rate of 117.67 – making him the club’s all-time leading scorer in the format.
“Northamptonshire Cricket Club has been my life since I was 13 years old and although this decision was extremely tough to make, I am excited about starting the next chapter in my life,” Wakely said in a press release. “I can’t thank the club enough for all the opportunities they’ve given me over the years, and in particular head coach David Ripley who has helped, encouraged and supported me throughout. He has become a friend rather than a coach and somebody who I have the utmost respect for.
“I grew up supporting Northamptonshire watching the likes of Mike Hussey and Allan Lamb smash it around. To have the privilege of captaining and latterly, lifting two domestic trophies is more than I could have ever wished for. I am incredibly proud of this achievement and these are memories that will stay with me for life.
“I have travelled the world, formed great friendships, won trophies and made some incredible memories. I could not have asked for more. As well as Rips, there are two individuals that I must mention. The late David Capel played a huge role in my junior development and Phil Rowe became an invaluable source of advice and support to me throughout my career.”
Responding to the news, Ripley added: “Alex Wakely has been an absolute credit to himself and his family throughout his Northamptonshire career. I shared my best days in cricket with him and would like to thank him for his leadership, skill and friendship during his time with the club. He’s universally regarded by teammates, opposition, umpires and supporters as a top bloke.”
Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98