Cobb delighted as Vasconcelos leads from the front for Steelbacks

Ricardo Vasconcelos has impressed at the top of the order for the SteelbacksRicardo Vasconcelos has impressed at the top of the order for the Steelbacks
Ricardo Vasconcelos has impressed at the top of the order for the Steelbacks
Skipper Josh Cobb has praised the impact of Ricardo Vasconcelos being promoted to open has had on the Steelbacks and their return to winning ways in the Vitality T20 Blast.

Since moving to the top of the order ahead of the team's first win of the competition at Durham, the 23-year-old has hit 225 runs in five matches at an average of 56.25, including two half-centuries.

After the team's struggles at the start when they lost five games out of five and regularly lost a clutch of early wickets, the decision to drop Richard Levi and to open with the left-hander has paid instant dividends.

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Vasconcelos has been very consistent, and that solidity has allowed the Steelbacks to go on a run of four wins in their past five matches.

Steelbacks skipper Josh CobbSteelbacks skipper Josh Cobb
Steelbacks skipper Josh Cobb

And that means they go into the final three games of the competition with a genuine chance of qualifying for the quarter-finals.

The Steelbacks travel to Lancashire Lightning on Friday night looking for the win to maintain that top four challenge, and Vasconcelos, who was awarded his County cap last weekend, will once again be looking to lead from the front.

Something his captain is sure he will do.

"We have a lot of players who can open the batting, and Ricardo has had to bide his time, especially with other match winners ahead of him," said Cobb.

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"Since has had had his opportunity at the top of the order he has taken it with both hands, and he has been the glue for us.

"He has been a constant run-scorer and that can allow others to hit the ball around him."

Cobb has been delighted with the Steelbacks' turnaround in form, but admits there were some dark days and difficult conversations in the camp when things were going so awry early on.

The fact that star overseas signing Mohammad Nabi had to miss the first three matches altogether as he was in quarantine didn't help the Steelbacks' cause.

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The Afghanistan international then took a couple of matches to get into his stride, and him getting up to full speed has been another key factor in the team's improvement, but certainly not the only one.

"As I touched on at the start of the tournament, it was very disappointing not to have Nabi for the first three games," said Cobb, who is now fit and back in the team having missed seven games with a hamstring strain.

"Having somebody of his experience, with his calmness with bat and ball, and also his match-winning abilities, he has been a great addition.

"But we have also had some difficult chats when things weren't going so well, and some of the things we spoke about we have put into place.

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"We have had great energy in the field, we have bowled well, backed it up in the field, and then we have managed to score the runs.

"I feel we have been playing some excellent cricket, and have been playing the way we want to play our cricket, and we couldn't really say that for the first five games.

"Looking back, we have to be disappointed with how the first five or six matches went.

"But, given how they did go, to still now be in with a chance at this stage shows the upward turn in our form.

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"We have played some excellent cricket in the past five games, and we have pushed it and have left it a bit late, but we do still have that chance.

"If we manage to sneak in from here, then we will be one of the form sides going into the quarter-finals as T20 cricket is a massive game of momentum.

"We do have to win every game, so it is just about playing one game at a time and hopefully we can get that win on Friday."

The Steelbacks will be without Adam Rossington for the trip to Old Trafford, so Ben Curran is set to once again open the batting with Vasconcelos following his half-century in the recent win over Durham.

Wayne Parnell is also a doubt, having picked up an ankle injury in the Championship loss to Yorkshire.