Worcestershire’s spin twins will be the centre of attention at Wantage Road on Friday night for different reasons as Moeen Ali and Saeed Ajmal return to the Rapids ranks for the trip to Northamptonshire.
Ajmal is making his first appearance in his second season at the county, but question marks remain after a winter spent remodelling his action after being banned by the ICC in September last year.
Since returning in December, the 37-year-old has struggled, taking only seven wickets at a cost of 47 apiece in nine white ball matches for a combination of Pakistan A, the full side and in the domestic t20 last month.
Ali meanwhile endured a tough series for England against New Zealand and having lost his number six place to Ben Stokes, will hope a return to county action can help his claim to keep hold of the spinners berth for the Ashes.
The pair will boost a Rapids side that have had a mixed start to the campaign, having failed to chase 145 in the local derby at Edgbaston, before reaching a target of three runs more with ease at home to Leicestershire last week.
Northamptonshire meanwhile will be keen to get their campaign going as a season which started with high hopes in white ball cricket has begun with two losses in the t20 Blast, their powerful looking- on paper at least- batting order failing to fire just yet.
Weather and bad light didn’t help them at Durham and while they made a decent attempt to defend 146 against Birmingham last week, eventually losing on the final ball, know they need to score more runs if they are to start climbing the table.
David Willey, Northants first England international for six years, will want to put in a performance to remember before joining up with the national squad at the weekend. The all-rounder has struggled with the bat so far in the opening two games, but always has the capability of an innings to remember, but his bowling remains crucial to his sides hope, and he could lead the side in Alex Wakely’s absence.
Moeen Ali hasn’t had the best of times for England so far in 2015 but has certainly had his fair share of success against Northants in t20, winning the man of the match award in three of his last six appearances against the Steelbacks, including become the first man in T20 history to score 70 and take five wickets in the same game at Wantage Road two years ago.
Northants name an unchanged 12-man squad from last week’s defeat, but captain Alex Wakely could miss the game with his wife expecting the couple’s first child. Wakely missed the Championship match in Cardiff this week for the same reason.
Olly Stone has recovered from a hand injury to take his place in the squad, and while Ben Duckett isn’t named in the 12, he would be most likely to come in if Wakely doesn’t play.
Worcestershire are boosted by the return of Moeen Ali to their ranks for his first t20 appearance of the season, while Ajmal has replaced Senanayake in the 13-man squad, Alex Kervezee joining the 11 who beat Leicestershire last Friday, with one of the top order set to miss out to accommodate Ali.
Northants Steelbacks squad: Alex Wakely (c), Shahid Afridi, Muhammed Azharullah, Josh Cobb, Steven Crook, Rob Keogh, Rory Kleinveldt, Richard Levi, Adam Rossington (w), Olly Stone, Graeme White, David Willey.
Worcestershire Rapids squad: Daryl Mitchell (c), Moeen Ali, Richard Oliver, Tom Kohler-Kadmore, Colin Munro, Ross Whiteley, Ben Cox, Brett D’Oliveira, Ed Barnard, Joe Leach, Saeed Ajmal, Jack Shantry, Alexei Kervezee.
Weather and conditions
Scattered thunderstorms and morning showers are forecast for early on Friday but should clear up by lunchtime to provide a fine sunny and warn evening for t20 cricket in Northampton.
Date: Friday 5th June 2015
Ground: Wantage Road, Northampton.
Umpires: Nick Cook, Jeremy Lloyds.
Odds (via SkyBet): Northants: 8/11, Worcestershire: 11/10