If the Steelbacks want to progress, they have to show their hand now

A repeat of last week's victory against Birmingham Bears is virtually a necessity if the Steelbacks are to progress to the knockout stages
A repeat of last week's victory against Birmingham Bears is virtually a necessity if the Steelbacks are to progress to the knockout stages

The Natwest t20 Blast group stages have entered the final couple of furlongs and for the Northamptonshire Steelbacks the time has come to make their move.

Birmingham’s defeat to Nottinghamshire Outlaws earlier in the week has left the Steelbacks two points off the all-important top four with four games remaining.

There’s an added handicap of an inferior run rate, but that is a factor that can change dramatically if victories or defeats are of the comprehensive variety.

The first of these four games sees the Derbyshire Falcons visit the County Ground tonight (6.30pm) and the hosts will start as favourites against opponents who have won just one of their 10 games while losing eight.

However, despite this record, head coach David Ripley is taking nothing for granted.

He said: “They’re at the bottom of the league and haven’t been in great form, but they’ll be thinking that on their day they can beat anybody.

“I think it’s a game that we have to win and if we can do that then we can go into the other games with a lot to play for.”

As for the XI that will take to the field this evening, Ripley isn’t expecting there to be much in the way of change.

Loan signing Adam Rossington didn’t make the trip to Hove for the County Championship game but will come back into the middle order, and there could be a place for Rob Newton.

There won’t be any further sightings of Ian Butler in a Steelbacks shirt though with the New Zealander, whose deal was due to expire at the end of the month, back in his home country after injury brought a premature end to his short stint.

“It’ll be pretty similar to what we had last week,” Ripley said.

“There will be a bit of debate over Rob Newton and whether or not he could come in, and that depends on how his hand is.

“Other than that, we’ll be fairly settled.”

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