In-form Worcestershire up next for the Steelbacks

The Steelbacks have been beaten by Worcestershire in both of their limited overs meetings this season

The Steelbacks have been beaten by Worcestershire in both of their limited overs meetings this season

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David Ripley expects Northamptonshire Steelbacks’ next outing in the Royal London Cup to provide a stiffer examination than their campaign opener.

The Steelbacks were too good for Gloucestershire on Sunday as they recorded a comfortable four-wicket success at Cheltenham College and next up is the visit of Worcestershire to Milton Keynes tomorrow (10.30am).

The visitors, who lost their 50-over debut to Essex, are nevertheless riding high at the top of Division Two in the LV= County Championship and have a quarter-final in the Natwest t20 Blast to look forward to.

In fact, their position is almost identical to their hosts’ of 12 months ago, something that head coach Ripley acknowledges.

He said: “They’re playing really well and I can see some similarities with us last year, not always fancied and not always a team of stars but playing well for each other and playing well in all competitions.

“They were very impressive against us, as much as we were poor they were very good with out (Saeed) Ajmal and Moeen (Ali).

“They’re playing with confidence and it will be a tough test.”

As for the venue, it is the first time that the County have crossed the border into Buckinghamshire since 2011 and Ripley isn’t expecting any surprises from the all-important 22 yards.

He added: “We play second team cricket there twice a year so we know what we’ll get.

“It won’t be too dissimilar to this (Cheltenham) surface, it’ll be a bit tennis-ball and bounce and will have some carry.

“We don’t expect it to spin massively so fairly similar to what we encountered.”

With regards to the team that will take the field, Ripley doesn’t intend to make any alterations but he did mention that those on the fringes will face New Zealand A on Thursday to keep the current incumbents on their toes.

“It’ll be the same squad.” he said.

“Hopefully we’ve got some opportunities for guys, who haven’t been playing, against New Zealand A and that game comes at a good time for us to give some lads an opportunity.

“We’ve got some good players not in the team which is a good sign for us.”

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