Blast opener will show where the Steelbacks are at

Kyle Coetzer makes his bow as Steelbacks captain at Headingley tonight (Friday)
Kyle Coetzer makes his bow as Steelbacks captain at Headingley tonight (Friday)

David Ripley says that the opening Natwest t20 Blast fixture at Headingley will be a “good benchmark for his side.”

The Steelbacks travel north to Leeds today (Friday) to face the Yorkshire Vikings as they start the defence of the title they won at Edgbaston last August.

And with the home side’s international contingent all expected to be in action, head coach Ripley is expecting a good contest.

He said: “It’ll be a good benchmark for us at Headingley.

“They’re a good side and I’m sure they were disappointed with their Twenty20 form last year having reached the final the year before.

“I don’t think that Aaron Finch (overseas signing) is here yet but they will have their England boys on duty which is good and we want to play them at their best.

“It’ll be interesting for the competition when the international players leave as it could leave a few sides with holes but that won’t be the case this week.”

Circumstance has dictated that the Steelbacks will begin the tournament, which is played over 10 weeks rather than the five of previous seasons, with alterations in personnel.

One of them is a new captain in the shape of Kyle Coetzer due to Alex Wakely’s season-ending Achilles injury and Ripley is confident that the Scotsman will do a good job.

He commented: “He’s a very consistent personality and it’s not easy to be the same person day in, day out with the success and failure players can have but he’s good at doing that.

“He brought a lot of consistency to his batting in this competition last year and when you add that to the experience he’s picked up with Scotland then you’ve got a good choice.

“We took our time over the process and looked at how people we’re going about their business this season.

“We gauged the interest and had a couple of semi-formal interviews and after all of that we decided that Kyle was the best choice.”

David Willey, who isn’t fit to bowl after a back injury, is likely to open the batting alongside the returning Richard Levi and Ian Butler is in line to make his debut for the club.

Spin bowling duties will be taken by Graeme White and Matt Spriegel and a decision will be taken on who keeps wicket with Ben Duckett taking the gloves if an extra bowler is required.

Steelbacks from: Coetzer, Willey, Levi, Newton, Crook, Duckett, Butler, Murphy, Spriegel, White, Azharullah, Sales.