Cobb admits Steelbacks’ unpredictability makes them a hard team to work out

Josh Cobb (left) walks off the field after helping the Steelbacks to the win obver Durham last week

Josh Cobb (left) walks off the field after helping the Steelbacks to the win obver Durham last week

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Ahead of their trip to the County Ground on Sunday (2.30pm start), Leicestershire Foxes will have tried to swat up on the Steelbacks.

Because the Northants side they will face this weekend is likely to contain a few different faces from the one they lost to on NatWest T20 Blast opening night back in May.

The Steelbacks have been forced to bring different players into their side of late due to injury problems that threatened to derail their North Group.

But the fact that they have remained on the right track, heading back to the top of the North Group thanks to their 26-run victory against Durham Jets eight days ago, owes much to their character.

And it may also have something to do with their unpredictability.

Teams can come up with plans for the likes of Richard Levi and Rory Kleinveldt - not that many seem to be able to stop the South African duo - having faced them before.

But with even hardy Steelbacks fans struggling to recognise the likes of Richard Gleeson and Moin Ashraf last Friday night, opposition sides have got a tough task to work them out.

And Josh Cobb, who Leicestershire will know all about from his many years at the county before leaving to join Northants in 2015, said: “That (how to play against unknown players) is going to be one thing for teams to work out.

“But the way they’ve come in and fitted into the roles with senior players missing, they’ve done their job.

“We’re just getting on a roll in this competition and hopefully that continues.”

While the likes of Gleeson and Ashraf played superbly last Friday night, there has been an onus on the Steelbacks’ more settled senior players to step up and ensure the likes of Levi and Klenveldt, who have both been out injured, are not missed.

Cobb certainly did that last Friday, showing that having no Levi at the top of the order was no problem.

The former Foxes batsman hit a superb 68 from 48 balls and even attracted some chants of ‘Josh Cobb’s on fire’ from the impressed Northampton Saints players in the box above where he was fielding.

And Cobb, who also took two for 29 with the ball, said: “Team first, but to be the guy that’s helped them over the line as well is good for me.

“With Richard Levi missing, he was in excellent form, so I knew that myself and a lot of others, who have all got the ability to win games, needed to put a performance in.

“I’ve played more than 100 games and I knew I had to put my hand up and put a big effort in.”

“We’ve asked for people to stand up and be counted with all the injuries and so far lads have been doing that.

“We got three points out of the last two and we’d have taken that at the beginning.”

It ended up being a very good couple of days for the depleted Steelbacks as their game at champions Lancashire Lighning was abandoned last Thursday before they returned home to defend their 161 for nine and defeat Durham comfortably.

The Steelbacks are sitting pretty in the T20 standings, having taken nine points from the six of 14 group games completed so far, although they have now dropped to second in the table thanks to Birmingham Bears’ win over the fast-fading Foxes on Friday night.

And Cobb said: “We’re feeling very good about it.

“Worcester was a close game and we’ve won a lot of them this year, but we lost that and it was unfortunate.

“But to be sitting where we are now is great and hopefully Rich and Rory are close to coming back from injury.

“They will only make our team stronger.”

So what of the clash with Cobb’s former county, who have had a mixed time of it in this year’s T20 competition, this weekend?

“It’s a big game for them as well,” he said. “They’re down there so they’re going to be wanting two points.

“They’re a dangerous Twenty20 side, well organised but if we keep putting in performances like we are doing in this competition, we’ll be very hard to beat.”

The Steelbacks won by five wickets via the Duckworth Lewis method at Grace Road last month.

And Cobb said: “As a team we put in a good performance.

“Most teams now know how dangerous we are as a white-ball side before there’s even a ball bowled. They give us the respect we deserve.

“As a team and individuals, if we keep putting in performance then we’ll be very hard to beat.”