Crucial week for Steelbacks as they bid to salvage Blast campaign

The Steelbacks have won just one T20 game so far this season
The Steelbacks have won just one T20 game so far this season

The Steelbacks face a key week in their bid to reach the knockout stage of the Vitality T20 Blast.

The competition is only into its third week but Northants are already under pressure to challenge for a top-four place in the North Group.

With one win and a no-result from five matches so far, the County are bottom of the table ahead of three matches in five days.

Durham visit the County Ground on Wednesday before trips to Leicestershire Foxes and Worcestershire Rapids follow on Friday and Sunday respectively.

David Ripley’s side impressed in victory against Birmingham Bears before being frustrated by the weather, which stopped them hosting Yorkshire Vikings two days later.

And the Northants head coach says that was an untimely interruption before a six-wicket defeat to Derbyshire Falcons last Friday.

“We felt our campaign was kicking in with a good win against Birmingham,” said Ripley. “We wanted to get out again against Yorkshire but the rain came at a bad time for us.

“It’s easy to get gloomy when you see yourselves at the bottom of the table but the landscape can change very quickly and we still have a lot of cricket left.”

At least six wins have been needed to reach the top four of the North Group in each of the past five seasons.

Northants have nine matches remaining, starting with the return match with Durham.

“We’ve been here before and have managed to put a run together but obviously we can’t leave it too late to get going,” said Ripley.

“You’ve got to try to win your home games so Wednesday is a great chance for us to get back into form and it’s a big game for us.

"We’ve had a weekend off but we’re back up and running now.”

Ripley rued his side’s effort with the ball in defeat to Derbyshire but insisted it was only a blip among a series of much-improved efforts in the field so far.

“Three times out of four we’ve bowled pretty well,” said Ripley, who saw his side set the Falcons a victory target of 181.

“We’ve tried to give the captain plenty of seam-bowling options, plus his own spin and Graeme White, so Josh (Cobb) has plenty of places to turn.”

Richard Levi has been a big miss for Northants in the opening part of the tournament, having suffered a repeat of the nerve injury to his neck that has kept him out for extended periods in previous seasons.

“He has practiced and hit some balls in the nets but is still a little restricted in his movement,” said Ripley.

“He would obviously be going straight into a match with not much preparation but we know how effective he can be in T20 so we’ll have a close look at him.”