Ripley’s Steelbacks have got pulses racing

Muhammad Azharullah's last-gasp heroics have been key for the Steelbacks (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)
Muhammad Azharullah's last-gasp heroics have been key for the Steelbacks (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)
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It might not be great for the heart or the hair colour, but at least Northants Steelbacks can’t be accused of being 
boring.

That is because David Ripley’s men have taken three of their past four NatWest T20 Blast games to the final ball - and won them all.

Each time they have been in the field, and each time the opposition side have failed to get the runs they needed from the death bowling of Muhammad Azharullah.

It has made for compelling viewing for County fans, but their coach might just be feeling a touch older after an eventful few weeks.

“It’s great being a Northants cricket fan at the minute isn’t it?” said David Ripley.

“But these last-ball finishes do make it a really long season to be honest.

“It feels like we’ve had about 25 matches, and we’ve only had 10 (in the T20 tournament).

“It’s Twenty20 cricket, there are small margins, small things decide games and just at the moment those small margins are coming down on our side.

“Azhar is a fine death bowler who likes the responsibility of trying to get us over the line.

“We weren’t at our best (in the three-run win at Derbyshire Falcons last Sunday) so we’ll try and bring that out of the group and try and improve our performance against Leicestershire this weekend.

“If we play at our best then I think we’re a match for anyone.”

Northants’ game against Leicestershire Foxes on Sunday is one of three they have left at home in this season’s T20 group stage.

They only have one more away match remaining and Ripley is hoping home comforts can get his team into the quarter-finals.

He said: “We’re just trying to take it each game at a time, but it’s nice to have three home games, there’s no doubt about that.

“We’ve got three out of the last four at home, and that will be an advantage for us, and if we play some of the cricket we’ve played, certainly in that little run we had where we had some excellent games, then we’re hard to beat at home.”