Middle order worries for travelling Steelbacks

David Sales is part of a Steelbacks middle order that needs to produce more

David Sales is part of a Steelbacks middle order that needs to produce more

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An underachieving middle order is Northamptonshire Steelbacks’ main concern as they embark on a Natwest t20 Blast double-header.

A trip to Edgbaston (today, 5pm) to face the Birmingham Bears is first up and this is followed by a clash with Lancashire Lightning at Old Trafford tomorrow (6.30pm).

The Steelbacks, who are fifth in the North Group table after five games, haven’t hit the heights of last year’s successful campaign as yet and head coach David Ripley knows his batting line-up needs to produce more.

He said: “That (the middle order) will still be debated as we haven’t hit our straps in that area.

“I don’t see a change with Steve (Crook) as he was a key player for us last year and he won’t go far from his spot.

“It’s the positions around him where the problem lies so we might need to alter that.

“David (Willey) and Richard (Levi) have started well for us at the top of the order, but with the rest of the order we haven’t quite found the right combination.”

One player who may not be part of any reshuffle is Rob Newton.

He missed the defeats to Worcestershire Rapids and Yorkshire Vikings with a hand injury, and although he has played in the Championship, it is felt that the non-stop schedule isn’t doing him any favours.

Ripley added: “Rob’s a concern with his hand injury so I don’t think we can keep rolling him out.

“Part of the problem with the schedule is that there’s no time for rest, and if you have to practice and hit balls then that can’t happen so he’s definitely a doubt with injury.”

As for the rest of the squad, there could be a return for Ian Butler and James Middlebrook could also feature, especially at Old Trafford whers spin can have more influence.

As for the tonight’s hosts, who are one place above the visitors in the standings, they will pick from a 15-man squad which doesn’t include, contrary to rumours doing the rounds, batsman Jonathan Trott.

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

Bears from: Troughton, Ambrose, Best, Chopra, Clarke, Coleman, Evans, Gordon, Hannon-Dalby, Javid, Malik, Patel, Porterfield, Webb, Wright.