Head coach David Ripley admits Moeen Ali will be a ‘big wicket’ when Northants host Worcestershire Rapids on Friday evening (start time 6.30pm).
Ali has not played in any of the Rapids’ three NatWest T20 Blast games so far, but he will be available for selection against the Steelbacks.
He has history of performing well against Northants, winning the man of the match award in each of his past three T20 matches at Wantage Road.
And Ripley is well aware of what the all-rounder, who smashed 90 from 50 balls at Northampton last season, will bring to the Worcestershire side in this week’s encounter.
“Moeen being available certainly strengthens the challenge,” Ripley said. “He’s a dangerous player and will be a big wicket on the night.
“It’s luck of the draw with England not playing. We’ve beaten them with Moeen in the side before but he’s another match-winning player they’ll have in their team.”
The Steelbacks have started the T20 campaign with two wins from as many matches, but Ripley insists they can still get better.
He said: “There have been some great signs in the first two matches, certainly with our batting, but there’s also room for improvement with the ball and in the field.
“We’re doing our practice – I guess we can look at the intensity of our practice and whether we can crank that up a bit. We’ll certainly be pushing the guys hard.
“That’s all you can really do. If guys drop catches and you’ve prepared and tried hard and taken catches in practise, you have to say ‘bad luck’.
“When people are work-shy and chances are going down, that’s not acceptable but we’re definitely in the first category at the moment and we’ll just keep going and hope a few more stick for us.”
And Northants know they will need to be at their best to beat a Rapids side who also relish T20 cricket.
“They have been very consistent over a period of time,” Ripley said.
“They’ve won a lot of games without actually reaching finals day. But they’ve shown they’re good at the shortest format.
“But we feel we’ve got a very well balanced side and we kick all the boxes with our power, with our seam bowling and spin bowling.
“We feel we can beat anybody.”
Steelbacks squad to face Worcestershire Rapids: Wakely (c), Crook, Azharullah, Cobb, Keogh, Stone, Prasanna, Levi, Rossington, Duckett, White, Sanderson, Kleinveldt.