Northants Steelbacks lost twice to Saturday’s semi-final opponents Birmingham Bears in the group stages of the NatWest T20 Blast.
Both matches went to the last ball, with the reigning champions just managing to get over the line on both occasions.
You may think that those two wins might give the Edgbaston side the psychological edge for Saturday game (start 11am), but Northants head coach David Ripley doesn’t see it that way.
And that’s because he knows that in both of those fixtures, his Steelbacks team were well below par.
“We have lost two last-ball games to Birmingham, and we were nowhere near our best,” said Ripley.
“In the game at home we did bowl and field well, but our batting was well below par.
“Then in the away game we dropped catches, leaked runs, and then our chase never got going and we found ourselves needing four off the last ball.
“That’s how I see it, if we play a better game then we can beat them, and I believe we can beat them.
“We have beaten them in the past, we beat them at home in the two years previously, so we know we can beat them, and we have also beaten them at Edgbaston in 40-over cricket.
“Whoever you play in the semi-final you’re not going to get an easy tie and the champions on their home pitch is a tough one, but I am confident we can win.”
Ripley is an admirer of the Birmingham Bears, but he feels the Steelbacks are more than a match for them.
“I think their strength generally seems to be their bowling, and they have defended scores and Jeetan Patel has bowled skilfully in the middle,” said the Northants coach. “But if you look at the number of match-winners on each team, I still think we have them covered in terms of explosive, match-winning cricketers.
“Generally, T20 cricket boils down to that and it is about who sticks their hand up on the day and makes that match-winning contribution.
“You just need a couple to get you over the line, and we have got as many as them.
“We aren’t going there thinking anything other than we can beat them.”
Ripley is delighted to be taking Northants to finals day, especially after the team lost their opening three group games.
“We played poorly in the first game, we were nowhere,” said Ripley, as he looked back on the opening match at Durham Jets.
“In the next two games we either batted well or bowled well, but we didn’t combine anything.
“It is about getting on a run and once we got that ball rolling I was pretty confident we could get through.
“Once you are through, we back ourselves to beat anybody on the day.”