A Cheltenham outing to get things started

Will David Willey open in the Royal London Cup or is there a role for him lower down the order?
Will David Willey open in the Royal London Cup or is there a role for him lower down the order?
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Northamptonshire Steelbacks open their Royal London Cup campaign with a visit to Cheltenham College to face Gloucestershire tomorrow (10.30am).

The competition sees the return of 50-over cricket to the domestic scene and replaces the Yorkshire Bank 40 of 2013.

The tournament will mirror the international game, in fact that is the exact reason why it was introduced, and although it hasn’t met with widespread approval, it’s here to stay for three seasons at least.

After a disappointing Natwest t20 Blast defence, the Royal London Cup offers the Steelbacks a fresh start and the chance to salvage something from what has been a dismal season so far.

With that in mind, expect to see near full strength sides being fielded, a tactic that might not be country-wide with other sides involved in the hunt for silverware on the other two fronts.

The main dilemma for head coach David Ripley will be the identity of Richard Levi’s opening partner.

The South African will definitely be going in first and a choice will have to be made between his Twenty20 partner David Willey or a more traditional approach that would probably involve Kyle Coetzer or Rob Newton.

Ripley said: “With the two new balls there is likely to be a bit of swing and nip sat the start and that means making a choice of how you look at the powerplay,” he added.

“Do we go with all of our firepower up front and run the risk of losing both Richard (Levi) and David (Willey) in the first few overs?

“It’s about where we put our best one-day batsman and how we utilise them.

“I can see the benefit of David opening and doing what he did at Edgbaston last season (a quickfire century) and I can also see how we would be useful later on with the fielding restrictions in place.”

On the bowling front, there could be a spot for Andrew Hall, who hasn’t played any Twenty20 cricket this season, and Muhammad Azharullah will return after missing Friday evening’s defeat to Durham.

It is unlikely that three spinners will be included so one of James Middlebrook, Matt Spriegel and Graeme White is likely to miss out.

Steelbacks (from): Coetzer, Levi, Willey, Rossington, Crook, Newton, Hall, Middlebrook, Spriegel, White, Azharullah, Chambers, Stone, Duckett.