The final round of Natwest t20 Blast group matches sees Northants hosting Yorkshire in the North group’s key fixture as the hosts look to seal a home quarter final, whilst Yorkshire still need a win to seal their last eight place, knowing victory could also see them claim the home tie.
It’s the second meeting in a week between these sides, with Yorkshire having won the return fixture at Headingley last Friday, hitting 215-6 in a substantial 75 run victory, moving the White Rose up to third in the group, two points behind Northants.
The size of that defeat could prove crucial tonight, as Northants had looked well placed for a top two finish, with a sizable net run-rate advantage over Yorkshire, only to see that reduced form almost a whole run to 0.182.
It means Northants could lose tonight and still finish second, but have little margin for error and anything but a narrow defeat would see Yorkshire claim the all-important home tie, for example if chasing, the Steelbacks would need to get within around 18 runs of their target, the exact equation will only be confirmed after the first innings.
For Yorkshire meanwhile, victory will be their first and foremost target with their place in the last eight not yet confirmed. Any win or tie will suffice, but defeat combined with a Birmingham victory would leave their qualification depending on the run-rate equation with the winner of the Durham v Derbyshire game, both of whom are two points behind.
They say momentum is key in T20 cricket, especially in a competition the length of the Blast, and momentum is certainly something Yorkshire have in abundance right now. Three defeats to start the competition, followed by two successive wash outs, left them stranded at the bottom of the group. But six wins in eight have catapulted them into third place and their fate is now in their own hands.
The run started with a series of tight victories, but the last two wins have seen thumping wins, recording totals of over 200 against both Durham and Northants.
They also won their last four One-Day Cup games, including two in the past week, and after what might be seen as relative underachievement in the white ball game compared with their Championship pedigree, they appear to have cracked one-day cricket this year.
Northants, meanwhile, have rather stumbled over the qualification line. After winning six of their first seven completed matches, the Steelbacks have lost three of the last four – the win in that run sealing qualification with a 74 run mauling of Birmingham.
Three of their four defeats in the competition have come on the road, however, with Wantage Road having become an unlikely fortress. The Steelbacks have lost only one of their last ten at home, the only blip coming against Nottinghamshire three weeks ago.
Northants will be without Richard Levi after the big hitting batsman injured his shoulder taking a stunning catch to dismiss Alex Lees last Friday night. Rob Keogh is likely to replace him in the eleven, whilst Muhammed Azharullah could come into the bowling attack, Moin Ashraf the man who could drop out.
Northamptonshire squad: Alex Wakely (c), Josh Cobb, Steven Crook, Ben Duckett, Rob Keogh, Rory Kleinveldt, Rob Newton, Adam Rossington, Graeme White, Richard Gleeson, Muhammed Azharullah, Seekkuge Prasanna, Moin Ashraf
Yorkshire have named an unchanged 15 man squad, with England trio Joe Root, Johnny Bairstow and Gary Balance not having been made available despite the gap between the second and third. Given their recent form an unchanged eleven can also be expected.
Yorkshire squad: Tim Bresnan, Karl Carver, Ben Coad, Travis Head, Andrew Hodd (w), Jack Leaning, Alex Lees (c), Adam Lyth, Adil Rashid, Steven Patterson, Liam Plunkett, Azeem Rafiq, Will Rhodes, Mathew Waite, David Willey
Ben Duckett has enjoyed a simply extraordinary ten days in an extraordinary season, starting for the England Lions with scores of 163* and 220*. His last three white-ball innings for Northants have brought scores of 50, 46 & 86, his half century at Headingley last Friday coming up in only 21 deliveries.
David Willey hadn’t hit a half-century for Yorkshire since his move from Northants, but put his former teammates to the sword with a 46 ball 74 that set up Yorkshire’s total of 215-6. It will be his first appearance at his hometown ground in an opposition shirt, but it is the sort of big occasion that is likely to drive Willey to his top form, with both bat and ball.
Weather and conditions
Showers are forecast throughout Friday afternoon in Northampton, but forecasts suggest they should clear around the scheduled 6:30pm start time. The wicket will most likely be a used pitch, but the same one Northants scored 355 on in the One-Day Cup last Sunday.
Date: Friday July 29
Venue: Wantage Road, Northampton
Umpires: Alex Wharf, Michael Burns, Rob Bailey (third umpire)
Odds: Northants 11/10, Yorkshire 8/11