Pressure no problem for Northants
The last time Northants defended their T20 title, things didn't quite go to plan.
David Ripley’s men, who had stunned everyone by claiming glory in 2013, only won four of their 14 group games in 2014.
It was a damp squib after the Champagne-fuelled celebrations at Edgbaston during the previous summer.
But there is no doubt it steeled the Steelbacks for future campaigns.
They bounced back in 2015, reaching the final, where Lancashire eventually proved a little too strong.
And Northants went one better last year, claiming their second T20 title by beating Nottinghamshire and Durham on finals day.
Now, Ripley’s men must again handle the tag of champions.
But if the laid-back attitude of spinner Graeme White is anything to go by, any potential pressure won’t bother them one bit.
“I’m excited and looking forward to getting started with it really,” said White ahead of tonight’s curtain raiser against Derbyshire at the County Ground.
“We obviously had a disappointing 50-over competition, but the group of lads are ready to go out there and try to defend our title.
“It should be good and we can’t wait to get out there on our home ground against Derby for the first game.”
Northants are traditionally underdogs when the Blast begins.
But the fact they have now reached two successive finals days and lifted the trophy last year should mean they are more fancied this time round.
So does White think other teams will target Steelbacks because of their recent pedigree in the 20-over tournament?
“I think so now,” he said.
“We’ve earned that respect over the past couple of years, having been to finals day.
“Teams do pinpoint us as quite a threat, but that can only be good for us because it will make us step our game up and play better.
“I’m sure we’re looking forward to the challenge of trying to defend it.
“It’s not going to add any extra pressure because we usually get told we’re underdogs and we’re never in anyone’s top three and we end up winning it.
“It will be interesting to see where they rank us this year.”
White played 15 times for the Steelbacks in last season’s NatWest T20 Blast.
The 30-year-old was a key component of the side, helpig to keep opposition run rates down and claiming crucial breakthroughs in big matches.
White grabbed 13 wickets in the 2016 Blast, including a hat-trick in an emphatic victory against the Birmingham Bears that helped Northants book a place in the quarter-finals.
And the talented spinner is looking for more of the same this time round.
“I’ve just got to try to slow the scoring down and the only way you do that is by taking wickets,” White said.
“That’s the goal of bowlers - to try to restrain batsman and if you take wickets, that usually happens.
“I’m looking forward to getting out there and playing again.
“I enjoy the T20 atmosphere, especially in the games here at the County Ground - it really is fantastic.”