It’s all to play for at the top of the North group, as the pool stage reaches the half-way point. The only game on Thursday evening sees Northants host Worcestershire at Wantage Road, with the defending Champions knowing a win will take them back to second spot.
The Steelbacks dropped to sixth following defeat on D/L to Nottinghamshire last Saturday, having been second 24 hours earlier, but with the four sides above them all on eight points to Northants’ seven, Yorkshire leading the way two clear, victory will see them leap ahead of the top in what is a game in hand.
Worcestershire’s campaign got off to a dreadful start, with four defeats and a washout from their opening five games leaving the Rapids looking likely to get cut adrift – alongside Durham at the bottom – only to get off the mark against Notts last night. If they can make it two wins in as many days, they will suddenly be looking upwards.
For Northants, it is a return to home ground following three successive away fixtures and with the last home clash with Yorkshire abandoned without a ball bowled, Alex Wakely’s men haven’t stepped foot on Wantage Road since the opening night of the Blast almost three weeks ago.
With five of their last eight games at home, including three of the next four in the space of eight days, it is set to be a crucial period for the Steelbacks, backing up tonight by traveling to Derbyshire tomorrow.
Wakely does have selection issues, especially in the spin department, with Rob Keogh the only recognised spinner, and even he has only bowled 12 t20 overs in his career. He is likely to be backed up by a debutant in Tom Sole or Saif Zaib, and coming in the same week as Ross Whiteley hit six sixes’ off Yorkshire slow left armer Karl Carver, the Rapids could look to exploit that weakness, but themselves face the difficulty of coming straight from being in action last night.
Rob Keogh has spent the majority of his Northants career as a bit part player in t20, but has suddenly become a crucial member of the side, both with the bat, where he has been something of a finisher so far with three important cameos, and with the ball. Despite being used as first choice spinner in the Championship, Keogh had only bowled eight overs in 38 t20 appearances, but the injury to Josh Cobb at Leicester forced him into action and he responded with 1-24 from four and, with Graeme White injured and Tabriz Shamsi back in South Africa, Keogh will go into tonight as the main spinner.
It’s not often that someone hitting 118 off 55 balls gets upstaged by someone on the losing side, but that’s exactly what Ross Whiteley managed to do on Sunday as he became the first Englishman to hit six sixes in an over in top level cricket. It was followed by 42 off 16 against Notts meaning his last three innings have totalled 146 from 70 balls, including 15 sixes. Often a player who blows hot and cold, Worcestershire will need Whiteley to continue to smoke it if they are to get back into contention and perhaps a move up the order is in need, with seven seemingly low for someone in such hitting form.
Richard Levi returned for last weekend’s double header, but Northants face something of a crisis in the spin bowling department. With Sri Lankan Seekkuage Prasanna ruled out of the whole competition, whilst replacement Tabriz Shamsi has had to return to South Africa for an ‘A’ series, the last thing David Ripley needed was Graeme White going down with a shoulder injury. Even part time spinner Josh Cobb is out, leaving Rob Keogh as the only experience, with Tom Sole and Saif Zaib spin options if either is given a debut, whilst Nathan Buck could come in if a seamer is preferred.
Northants squad: Nathan Buck, Josh Cobb, Steven Crook, Ben Duckett, Richard Gleeson, Rob Keogh, Adam Rossington, Ben Sanderson, Richard Levi, Rory Kleinveldt, Rob Newton, Tom Sole, Alex Wakely, Saif Zaib
Josh Tongue is the only addition to the Worcestershire squad that won at Trent Bridge last night, the youngster having returned from England U19 duty. George Rhodes is the other addition to the 11 who beat Notts, but an unchanged team is likely.
Worcestershire squad: Daryl Mitchell, Joe Clarke, Brett D’Oliveira, Ben Cox, John Hastings, Mitchell Santner, Ross Whiteley, Joe Leach, Ed Barnard, Jack Shantry, Patrick Brown, George Rhodes, Josh Tongue
Weather and conditions
Thursday evening is set fair for Northampton, with no rain forecast and, whilst it will remain overcast, temperatures will be pleasant in the high teens. White-ball surfaces have generally been good at Wantage Road with Derbyshire chasing 180 with ease in the only match so far, so expect more runs on show.
Northamptonshire Steelbacks v Worcestershire Rapids
Date: Thursday July 27
Venue: Wantage Road
Odds: Northants 8/11, Worcestershire 11/10