Ripley backing Steelbacks to shine in Royal London One day Cup in his absence
David Ripley may not physically be at the County Ground when the Steelbacks start their Royal London One Day Cup campaign against Glamorgan on Sunday - but he will very much be there in spirit.
The head coach will be based at Lord's as assistant to Shane Warne at London Spirit in The Hundred for the next month, but he says he will have one eye on the Steelbacks’ progress in his absence.
Ripley has left the team in the capable hands of his assistant John Sadler as well as bowling coach Chris Liddle, having played his part in preparing the squad for the 50-over competition.
The Steelbacks have lost three key players to The Hundred - Josh Cobb, Adam Rossington and Brandon Glover - but they have fared pretty well in that regard compared to some other counties, and Ripley is targeting a top three place in their nine-team group and qualification for the knockout stages.
Ricardo Vasconcelos will captain the team, and he will have the likes of Ben Sanderson, Rob Keogh, Saif Zaib, Simon Kerrigan, Graeme White, Tom Taylor, Nathan Buck and South African international Wayne Parnell at his disposal.
“I think we are in pretty good shape, and that was part of the appeal of signing Wayne as well,” said the head coach.
“If you have an overseas player for the whole season rather than just a short passage, then we knew he would be in place for the 50-over competition.
“The counties who play at Test match grounds are used to losing their international players and have a bit more depth in their squad, so that may be evened out a little bit.
“But we are expecting to go well, we want to qualify and be around those top spots when we go into that last group game, and take the competition right to the end.”
The Steelbacks began their preparations for the One Day Cup with an entertaining 57-run win over Bedfordshire in a friendly at the County Ground on Tuesday.
Emilio Gay was the standout performer as he hit 101 in the County’s 308 for nine, while there were also a half-century for Zaib.
Bedfordshire made a very good effort in reply, with former Northants batsman James Kettleborough hitting an excellent 73 from 77 balls and George Thurstance 53, but they fell short at 251 all out.
Left-arm spinner Kerrigan led the way with the ball as he claimed three for 19 from eight overs, while left-arm unorthodox bowler Freddier Heldreich took some punishment before finishing with four for 53.
And Gay and Heldreich are two of the club’s talented young players who are set to play a key role in the One Day Cup.
“The schedule is in place for the players, and we have decided to go for an extended squad if you like to try and create a mini bubble through the competition,” said Ripley.
“That is to try and protect us from any Covid stuff, and try to minimise the risk of that. So there will be come Academy guys in that group, and some lads who haven’t actually played a lot of 50-over cricket.
“People like Charlie Thurston, Saif Zaib, Ben Curran, they have been around a while but they haven’t played a lot of 50-over cricket, with nobody having played it for two years!
“Freddie Heldreich will be in the squad as well and there is a lot for us to be excited about, and with the academy guys it will be good for them to be in the group.”
Northants are in Group B in the One Day Cup, alongside Derbyshire, Warwickshire, Somerset, Leicestershire, Surrey, Glamorgan, Yorkshire and Nottinghamshire.
Each team will play each other once, with four home matches and four away, and the top three will qualify for the knockout stages.
The Group A and Group B winners will progress straight into the semi-finals, while the teams finishing second and third go into a play-off to try and get into the last four.
The team second in Group A will host the team finishing third in B, and the team second in B will entertain the team finishing in A, with those matches scheduled for Saturday, August 14.
The winners of those play-offs will then travel to play the semi-finals at the two group winners on Tuesday, August 17.
The final will be held at Trent Bridge on Thursday, August 19.