It was a year that Northamptonshire hoped would bring an unprecedented third consecutive quadruple-haul, with the emergence of 21-year-old seamer Will Henderson and the acquisition of England batsman Henry Bradshaw from Leicestershire.
It was not to prove so, after defeat in the Super Cup Semi Finals to the Steelbacks' traditional nemesis, Somerset, but it was to prove to be a remarkable year for 27-year-old Northamptonshire batsman Aaron Weaver and England.
Having been on the periphery of the England side for the past three seasons, Weaver, born in Corby in May 1996, finally silenced the doubters - many of the media had claimed that Surrey's Hugh Lines was more deserving of the place than Weaver - by recording a career-best 243 as England maintained their vice-like grip upon the Ashes, and sending his Test average into the low fifties.
His summer kicked off in style as he recorded 112 in the first match as Worcesetershire were vanquished at the Wantage Road before going off the boil briefly as the Steelbacks' pace attack carried them through the group stages of the C&G, William Henderson's inexplicable two boundaries off the final two balls against Lancashire at Old Trafford to win by one wicket the highlight of the run.
Home Tests and ODIs against Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe were arguably the perfect time for England's fringe players to establish themselves in the side, and the Sri Lanka side that failed to defeat the Minor Counties proved so. Weaver, opening after several experiments over the ashes failed, and Dominic Holroyd added 218 for the first wicket as England coasted to an innings win, Will Henderson taking 8/86 on Test debut.
Twelve wickets for Michael Porter sealed a ten-wicket win in the Second Test, with experienced skipper Nick Walton making 145 and wicketkeeper David Page, after a torrid winter, returning to form with 100*. The third test was altogether closer - thanks to the rain - as England's second innings declaration at 245-1 - after Holroyd had been dismissed - allowing Porter and Jeff Ewing just enough time to clear up the tail. The match marked a landmark as it was the first time in 14 years that the veteran off-spinner - with 874 Test and 2195 First Class wickets to his name - had been left out in preference to a second spinner.
The NatWest Series met records asunder. Zimbabwe, annihilated by 194 runs by a rampant Northamptonshire - who had lost their first 5 NCL games - in a warm up, and Sri Lanka proved no match for England - who the previous winter had won the VB Series despite losing all four of their opening games.
Weaver slammed 130* in the opener at Trent Bridge before Ewing collected 5/24 to reduce Sri Lanka to 113 and a 175-run defeat, before England racked up 344 against the hapless Zimbabweans, Weaver making 100 before being run out - which often proved the only way anyone could get him all summer. Ewing recorded another 5-wicket haul as Zimbabwe, despite an opening stand of 103, subsided to 201.
Chester-le-Street saw the game of the series as Len Blundell's 61* anchored England's 209-9 before occasional medium pacers Julian Bolton (3/20) and Weaver (2/22) reduced the Sri Lankans from 188-6 to 208, Weaver delivering the coup de grace, knocking back Jayasinghe de Alwis' off stump. The batting fireworks continued apace as England recorded a mammoth 379-4, Bolton making 112* before Zimbabwe made 258 in a festival of hitting that they could not sustain.
Weaver's 191 in the seventh match of the series, unsuprising his ODI best, led England to a record 439-3 before Sri Lanka - despite Buddhika Alwis' rapid 102 - were once again take apart by Ewing (5/60) for 240. Len Blundell's 115 took centre stage at the Oval in England's 368 before yet another Ewing 5-for saw off the Zimbabwean challenge. A disappointingly muted final saw England only make 230-7 despite fifties from Bolton and Weaver before Sri Lanka collapsed to 172.
Zimbabwe were then outplayed by Essex at Chelmsford before scaring the life out of England in the first test at Edgbaston. Veteran Ian Casey made 130 as Zimbabwe recorded a 153-run first innings lead, but Jeff Ewing accounted for the Zimbabwean middle order with 5/57 as England were set 393 in five sessions. They needed three as Weaver (197*), Marcus Barnwell (112) and Holroyd (75) made light of the Zimbabwe attack.
A rain-blighted Second Test meant no team passed 300, and England's aggressive declarations - and two more Ewing five-fors - allowed them to chase 279 on the final day after Weaver's first innings 115 had set foundation. England turned the Headingley Test into a spectacle for the fans after Nick Walton's 103 and Zimbabwe's capitulation to 89 all out had threatened to end the game early on Day 3. Eschewing the follow-on, Holroyd made 125 and Weaver 165 as England set Zimbabwe 707. Unsurprisingly, it wasn't close as Ewing's 4/37 precipitated a 483-run win.
Attention then switched to the C&G Trophy final, between Yorkshire and Northamptonshire, a day after the Northants coach's 38th birthday. Yorkshire posted 225-8 before Northants collapsed to 177-7 from 78-0. A determined 37 between Ewing and Bradshaw helped the Steelbacks inch closer but then Ewing and Remmington fell in quick succession. The last over started with 8 runs and ferret Will Henderson at the crease with Bradshaw. 2, dot, 1, Henderson facing, five needed, swing and a miss. Four, down the ground. One needed as Dial (4/56) bowled and Henderson cut it away to deep backward square for the single that brought the trophy.
In between times, Weaver had broken Mike Hussey's 21-year old record for runs in a season with 119 at Chelmsford, and only Dennis Brookes' 66-year old mark of 2,198 stood to beat. Five England centuries - Weaver (107), Walton (173 and 119* - his 35th, eclipsing Sunil Gavaskar's tally), Blundell (103*) and Bolton (110*) more than accounted for Steven de Fries' 104 and Frank Carrington's 110 as the hosts secured a run-filled 7 wicket win at the Oval as England ended their International summer with a record of played 14 - won 14.
Three outstanding issues remained - the Championship & NCL titles and Weaver vs Brookes. Weaver only made 52 and 7 at Edgbaston as Northants made it six-in-a-row in the longer version before the Steelbacks' 9-year NCL streak threatened to end at Hove until Bradshaw (102*) and Steve Ringham (63) added 130 for the fourth wicket.
Gloucestershire visited Wantage Road under mottled cloud cover as Weaver set about making the 127 he needed for the record. Having lost the toss, four wickets each from Ewing and Keith Nicholson reduced the visitors to 244, and Weaver made close successfully unbeaten. Yet as the skies darkened, Weaver continued inexorably, with the record falling with a full toss being pulled to midwicket for a single. Weaver made a new career best of 256 before falling, as Northants declared on 569-5. The rain saved Gloucestershire from defeat as four hours were lost on the final day and despite Ewing's 5/35, the visitors hung on for 164-9 at close, but it wasn't enough to stay up.
Northants returned to Edgbaston as they attempted to make it 10 consecutive NCL titles, and fittingly another Weaver century - 129* in 98 balls - did the job as they crusied past Warwickshire's 238-9 inside 35 overs despite the threatening skies.
The sunshine, flat pitches and limp bowling of South Africa beckon this winter for five Tests and six ODIs - who's to say what records England's batsmen can set there?
AARON WEAVER - 2023
FIRST CLASS - 2327 runs @ 110.81, 12x100, 5x50, HS 256
LIST A - 1859 runs @ 80.83, 7x100, 9x50, HS 191
TEST - 1100 runs @ 110.00, 6x100, 3x50, HS 197*
ODI - 628 runs @ 104.67, 3x100, 3x50, HS 191
ALL CRICKET - 4186 runs @ 95.14, 19x100, 14x50, HS 256
ENGLAND TEST AVERAGES - 2023
A Weaver - 1110 @ 110.00
N Walton - 735 @ 105.00
D Holroyd - 792 @ 66.00
D Page - 311 @ 51.83
L Blundell - 309 @ 44.14
C Patrick - 167 @ 41.75
J Bolton - 271 @ 38.71
M Barnwell - 335 @ 33.50
W Henderson - 20 @ 17.70
J Ewing - 37 @ 20.27
M Porter - 36 @ 23.97
M Jowell - 9 @ 28.78
D Oldman - 15 @ 30.53
C Patrick - 19 @ 33.26
ENGLAND ODI AVERAGES - 2023
A Weaver - 628 @ 104.67 @ 102.10
J Bolton - 362 @ 90.50 @ 114.55
L Blundell - 323 @ 64.60 @ 99.37
N Walton - 301 @ 43.00 @ 114.01
D Holroyd - 262 @ 37.43 @ 92.58
D Page - 136 @ 33.75 @ 115.38
J Ewing - 24 @ 13.37
D Oldman - 13 @ 27.46
M Porter - 13 @ 27.85
C Patrick - 11 @ 27.91
PwC RATINGS - TEST BATTING
1 Aaron Weaver (E) 873
2 Nick Walton (E) 827
3 Joseph Singh (I) 796
4 Dominic Holroyd (E) 755
5 Gopal Rauf (P) 739
1 Mike Matterson (A) 818
2 Robert Cale (A) 728
3 Aaron Weaver (E) 723
4 Wayne Matthew (Z) 697
5 Dominic Holroyd (E) 671
1 Jeff Ewing (E) 906
2 Tristan Phillip (WI) 893
3 Hrishesh Kundi (P) 873
4 Rashid Bashire (P) 807
5 Nayan Mudgal (I) 772
8 Michael Porter (E) 685
1 Jeff Ewing (E) 917
2 Rashid Bashire (P) 912
3 Hrishesh Kundi (P) 904
4 Romesh Miskin (SL) 797
5 Corey Stanton (NZ) 758
NORTHANTS - TROPHY CABINET SINCE 2002
2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2013, 2016, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023
2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023
C&G TROPHY (10)
2005, 2007, 2009, 2012, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2021, 2022, 2023
SUPER CUP (11)
2005, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2014, 2015, 2017, 2018, 2021, 2022
QUADRUPLE HAULS (4)
2005, 2009, 2021, 2022
And proof of Weaver's brilliant year: