Bears clash needs to be the start of a resurgence

Richard Levi, who missed the Championship trip to Lord's, returns for the Natwest t20 Blast clash with the Birmingham Bears

Richard Levi, who missed the Championship trip to Lord's, returns for the Natwest t20 Blast clash with the Birmingham Bears

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Northamptonshire Steelbacks’ grasp on the Natwest t20 Blast trophy has been weakened in the past few weeks.

Following their narrow success over Leicestershire Foxes on May 23, the men in navy blue haven’t tasted victory with four defeats and a couple of washouts making up their eight completed fixtures.

As a result, they are lying in a sickly seventh in the North Group with six points, four behind the Yorkshire Vikings who currently occupy the final qualifying position.

It doesn’t take a genius to work out that fortunes need to change and very quickly if their ever-lengthening odds are to be shortened.

First up for the Steelbacks is this evening’s clash with the Birmingham Bears in front of the Sky TV cameras (6.30pm), a game that, while not quite in the must-win category, isn’t a million miles off.

This is a factor acknowledged by head coach David Ripley who said: “We know that we have to get on a decent run soon and back-to-back games give you a good chance to do that.

“I think it’s important we try to take some winning momentum into Friday’s game but we saw how it can work in the opposite way.

“What we do know is that we need to get off to a strong start this evening and go from there.”

The two sides faced each other a fortnight ago at Edgbaston and it was the hosts who prevailed as they eased to an eight-wicket success.

With regards to personnel, captain Kyle Coetzer is expected to return after missing the past two games with a hamstring problem and both David Willey and Richard Levi, absentees from the Championship outing at Lord’s, will return to the starting X1.

Both David Sales and Rob Keogh will be missing, and not just from tonight’s encounter, after picking up an ankle ligament damage and a broken finger respectively.

Steelbacks from: Coetzer, Levi, Willey, Crook, Newton, Duckett, Middlebrook, Spriegel, Azharullah, Stone, White, Butler.