Northants and Derbyshire meet at Wantage Road on Friday night looking to kick on from winning starts after both were victorious on the opening weekend of the Natwest t20 Blast.
The Steelbacks beat Leicestershire last Friday, nf a game that eventually went down to the penultimate ball, Richard Levi’s 61 setting up an impressive chase of 164 as last season’s runners up won by five wickets.
Sri Lankan Seekkuge Prasanna sealed the win by hitting his first ball in Northants colours for six, backing up a tidy spell of 1-21 from his allocation, and the leg-spinner appears to have settled in well, having backed that up with 5-94 in the Championship this week.
Injuries are a concern for a Northants side who only used 13 players, excluding two who only played one game apiece, in last year’s competition, with bowlers Rory Kleinveldt and Olly Stone doubtful for Friday’s clash.
Derbyshire meanwhile went into the competition as outsiders, with the worst record in domestic T20 having never qualified for the quarter-finals, but they stunned defending champions Lancashire with a resounding victory at Emirates Old Trafford.
The hosts were restricted to 131-7 and Hamish Rutherford’s unbeaten 40-ball 71 ensured the Falcons raced to the target inside 14 overs, to lead the North group after the first round of matches.
However they have only beaten Northants once in eight attempts in T20s, a nine-wicket win in Northampton back in 2010, with Northants boasting five wins, including both fixtures last season in the Steelbacks’ route to the final.
Steven Crook has had a difficult start to 2016, with injury keeping him out of the opening month of action, before an indifferent return to action. However he bounced back with a bang in the Championship this week with scores of 60 and 103*, and if he can find form with bat and ball, Crook will be crucial for the balance of Northants side.
In a batting line up perhaps lacking the explosive power of others, Derbyshire will have high hopes of New Zealand opener Hamish Rutherford. He made a fine start with an unbeaten 71 against Lancashire and the Falcons will be after more of the same on Friday night.
Northants have had injury concerns overs bowlers Rory Kleinveldt and Olly Stone, the former limping off mid-way through last Friday’s clash whilst neither featured in the Championship draw at Gloucestershire this week.
However both have been included in an unchanged 13-man squad, with Ben Sanderson likely to come in should either Kleinveldt or Stone not make the match.
Northamptonshire squad: Alex Wakely (captain), Muhammed Azharullah, Josh Cobb, Steven Crook, Ben Duckett, Richard Levi, Rob Keogh, Rory Kleinveldt, Seekkuge Prasanna, Adam Rossington (wicket-keeper), Ben Sanderson, Olly Stone, Graeme White
Derbyshire are also unchanged from the squad that beat Lancashire on Saturday, with Ben Cotton and Scott Elstone joining the eleven from Old Trafford in a 13 man squad.
Derbyshire squad: Wes Durston (captain), Neil Broom, Andy Carter, Ben Cotton, Matt Critchley, Scott Elstone, Alex Hughes, Chesney Hughes, Wayne Madsen, Jimmy Neesham, Tom Poynton (wicket-keeper), Hamish Rutherford, Shiv Thakor,
Weather and conditions
Friday is set to be a dry day in Northampton, even if the sun might struggle to break through the clouds. Evening temperatures might get a bit chilly but remain in the mid-teens. T20 pitches at Northants have generally been good for batting in recent years, and with a fresh pitch to be used for the first game of the season at Wantage Road, runs should be expected once more.
Date: Friday 27th May
Venue: Wantage Road, Northampton
Umpires: Neil Bainton & Graham Lloyd
Odds: Northants 4/5, Derbyshire 1/1