The North group’s two remaining undefeated teams go head to head as Northants host Worcestershire tonight and, as a boxing announcer would say before such a clash, someone’s 0 has got to go.
Whilst the competition is in its infancy, both Northants and Worcestershire have backed up strong showings in last year’s campaign with winning starts to the new campaign, Northants with two wins from two whilst Worcestershire’s victory at home to Yorkshire on Thursday was their third triumph.
Runners-up Northants lost their first three games 12 months ago, but two excellent run chases have ensured an opposite start to 2015, chasing 196 to beat Derbyshire last week after a revised 164 from 18 overs at Leicestershire.
Richard Levi’s half centuries were crucial in both chases but there have been meaningful contributions right down the order, although the Steelbacks will want to see an improvement in their bowling, rather than relying on their batting to always chase big totals.
The Rapids meanwhile finished second in the North group last year, and have made a rapid start to the new campaign, having already seen off midlands rivals Birmingham after Tom Kohler-Cadmore’s stunning century against Durham kick-started the campaign.
The two matches between the sides saw two high scoring encounters, with one win apiece, Worcestershire making 211 at Wantage Road to win by 14 runs, whilst Northants’ 193 was just enough to sneak home by two runs at New Road.
Richard Levi may have stolen the headlines in Northants’ opening two games, but Ben Duckett has played an equally impressive role in finishing the job, with scores of 39* and 29, both excellently paced. The youngster is coming off the back of 189, his second big century of the season, and you just feel he has a big t20 innings coming soon.
Moeen Ali has been released to play for Worcestershire by England before the third test against Sri Lanka and the all-rounder has enjoyed taking on Northants in recent times, with 90 at Wantage Road 12 months ago, and will add to a powerful batting line up that has already fired in the competitions this season.
Northants captain Alex Wakely returns to the Northants squad after a groin injury side-lined him from both last week’s win and the following Championship match. If fit, Wakely is likely to replace Rob Keogh in the Northants XI, which otherwise should be unchanged, Ben Sanderson providing bowling cover.
Northants squad: Alex Wakely (c), Richard Levi, Adam Rossington, Josh Cobb, Ben Duckett, Steven Crook, Seekuge Prasanna, Rory Kleinveldt, Graeme White, Olly Stone, Muhammed Azharullah, Rob Keogh, Ben Sanderson
Worcestershire welcome back Moeen Ali to the squad having missed the opening three matches, including last night’s win over Yorkshire. Jack Shantry was also rested from the Yorkshire clash but could come back into contention.
Worcestershire squad: TBC
Weather and conditions
After a pretty miserable week weather wise, it will at least be dry in Northampton on Friday night, although cloudy and cold, with temperatures not reaching above 16 degrees.
The match is likely to be played on the same pitch that Northants chased 195 seven days ago, and even on a used surface, runs could be in plentiful supply once more.
Date: Friday June 3
Time: 6:30 pm
Venue: Wantage Road, Northampton
Umpires: Jeremy Lloyds, Steve Garratt
Odds: Northants 1/1, Worcestershire 4/5