Painful memories motivate Northants ahead of Durham clash

Richard Gleeson helped the Steelbacks to secure a fine win against Durham in the T20 competition last month (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)

Richard Gleeson helped the Steelbacks to secure a fine win against Durham in the T20 competition last month (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)

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”We got absolutely battered, didn’t we? Let’s hope for better!”

Those were David Ripley’s words when asked to reflect on last season’s NatWest T20 Blast game at the Riverside Ground.

On the opening night of the 2015 campaign, Northants were struck by a sobering 41-run defeat via the Duckworth Lewis method.

It was a bleak evening all round as Durham, who had made 174 for eight, piled on the misery for a Steelbacks side who limped to 47 for five before the rain came.

Ripley’s men were to suffer two more defeats before getting their act together, and they eventually went all the way to the final, where they lost to Lancashire Lightning.

The Steelbacks have been strong again in this season’s competition, winning six of their eight matches, including earning a 26-run win against Durham last month.

And Ripley said: “We did beat them at home this season and that was a good win.

“One of the things we’ve done is chased very well, but we had to set a score that night.

“We didn’t set a strong score, but we bowled and fielded really well and it was nice to beat them.

“I guess (all-rounder) Ben Stokes might be available for them having not been selected by England and it will be a good test for us.”

If Northants can pass that test, they know they can take another giant step towards the quarter-finals.

Not only that, but they would be in a great position to secure a home tie, with the top two teams from both the North and South Group earning home advantage.

But Ripley refuses to worry too much about where his team are sitting in the table until it gets to the real nitty gritty of the final couple of games.

“I try not to look too much until it gets right to the sharp end,” he said.

“Everyone’s beating everyone and you can drive yourself mad thinking ‘we want them to beat them’.

“There are still quite a few games left.

“It’s still very much in our hands and that’s not just qualifying, that’s our home quarter-final and that’s still our aim.”

And Ripley recognises that momentum is key in any competion.

The Steelbacks really started to motor after suffering three successive defeats at the start of the previous T20 campaign, and their fine form carried them all the way to the final.

Consequently, Ripley is determined to ensure his side overcome last Friday’s defeat to Nottinghamshire and get back on track for the final four group games.

“We beat Durham at home and we’ll have to go up there and hopefully put one foot in the quarter-final,” he said.

“Momentum is important.

“We lost our first three last year and made it through, but we’ve won our first three this year and it’s no certainty that we’re going to get through.

“We’ve got to keep working hard each game because if you take your foot off the gas and lose a couple of games, all of a sudden confidence wavers a bit and you’ve got to stop the rot.

“We played so well at Birmingham Bears a couple of weeks ago and I’ve said to the lads that not many people win there, so we’re still a good side.”

You could be forgiven for thinking that if the Steelbacks do get to finals day, they would want to avoid another encounter with Nottinghamshire.

Northants have not beaten the side from Trent Bridge in any format since July 30, 2006.

But Ripley refuses to fear the Outlaws and is instead hoping his team can exact revenge later in the competition.

He said: “The Notts hoodoo is certainly playing on my mind - I didn’t mention it to anyone else - and it would be nice to play them on finals day in some capacity and maybe put one over on them.

“That would be nice.”