Steelbacks hungry for more as they gear up for T20 Blast knockout stages

David Ripley is delighted the Steelbacks have reached the quarter-finals of the Vitality T20 Blast - but he admits he and his players are hungry for more.

Paul Stirling was the Steelbacks' top run-scorer in the group stages
Paul Stirling was the Steelbacks' top run-scorer in the group stages

Northants booked themselves a quarter-final against Gloucestershire at Bristol next Thursday afternroon (Oct 1, 2pm start) thanks to their thrilling final day win over Birmingham Bears at Edgbaston last Sunday.

Steelbacks produced a remarkable performance to chase down 192 to win from 71 for six, ending a run of four straight Central Group defeats in the process and securing the sunners-up spot on run-rate.

Ripley was relieved his team got their act together in time to get over the line and reach the last eight - but now he wants to go further.

David Ripley

“I know it was tight, but we did have to overcome that blip in the middle with the Covid stuff (a player tested positive, leading to three others self-isolating and the squad missing two days of practice),” said Ripley.

“We should have played better, but what happened wasn’t helpful having set our stall out around the T20 competition.

“When we look back at where we are, we have had a really good season and I am really pleased we have qualified because that was our goal, and when you are in the knockout stages anything can happen.

“So we are not happy just to be in the last eight, but it was a goal, that was the main thing.

“We know that we can beat anybody if we play well on the day, but we have to go and do it now.”

The quarter-finals are all staged next Thursday, with Finals Day two days later at Edgbaston, and Ripley believes his team has a big chance of winning the whole thing, as they did in 2013 and 2016.

Especially if his big batting guns at the top of the order find their mojo.

Of the Steelbacks' top order, Paul Stirling has been the most consistent so far in the competition, hitting 232 runs at an average of 29, but he hasn't made a half-century since his 80 not out in the opening day win over Worcestershire Rapids.

Adam Rossington and Richard Levi have hit one 50 apiece, while Josh Cobb made 49 in the defeat to Somerset last Friday, but it is fair to say they have not scored the volume of runs expected.

Now would certainly be a good time for them to get in the batting groove.

“I don’t think any team would look forward to playing us, because we are that kind of side, and I think we are due some runs,” said Ripley.

“We have only had four 50s hit in our campaign so far, and from that batting line-up that’s considerably short.

"Everybody is working hard and putting in the effort, but this is just that kind of game where it would be nice to have a couple of lads click that maybe haven’t clicked so far.

“Four 50s from the nine games we have had so far isn’t a good return with the line-up we have, so we will be looking for better.”