T20 FINALS DAY: Skipper Wakely believes Steelbacks’ experience will be crucial

Skipper Alex Wakely and key men Muhammad Azharullah and David Willey
Skipper Alex Wakely and key men Muhammad Azharullah and David Willey

Steelbacks skipper Alex Wakely believes the experience of his team is going to be crucial at Saturday’s NatWest T20 Blast Finals Day.

Northants travel to Edgbaston and their semi-final against hosts Birmingham Bears (start 11am) in confident mood, having won the tournament as recently as 2013, and fresh from a mauling of Sussex Sharks in the quarter-final at Hove.

The headlines that night not surprisingly centred around David Willey and his incredible 100 from just 40 balls.

Wakely accepts that Willey’s effort was a ‘phenomenal innings’, but he says there is a lot more to the Steelbacks than their explosive Yorkshire-bound all-rounder.

Throw into the mix the likes of Richard Levi, Josh Cobb, Adam Rossington, Ben Duckett, Steven Crook (if he’s fit), Rory Kleinveldt and Muhammad Azharullah, and you have a team full of quality and depth, and a team in which many of the players have seen it and done it before.

“David’s century at was just a phenomenal innings,” said Wakely, who is averaging 33 - only behind Crook - at a strike rate of 107 in this season’s T20.

“It was one of those that might not come off too often, but he has done it before on finals day.

“One thing we are lucky with this year is we have quite a few players who have been there before.

“Me and Dave both went to the finals day before (in 2009) when we lost, so we have seen what it’s like to lose and what it’s like to win.

“That experience is going to help, and we have a lot of guys that have played around the world.

“But if you play an innings like David did in the quarter-final you are going to win the game, but it also might be somebody with the ball that wins it.”

Wakely captained the Steelbacks to that memorable final win over Surrey back in 2013, but it was to be his last limited overs action for 21 months, as a serious Achilles injury suffered on a pre-season training trip saw him miss the entire 2014 season.

It was to the first domino falling in what turned out to be a pretty disastrous season for the County, who were relegated from the LV= Championship Division One without winning a game, and failed to progress from the knockout stages of the T20 or the One Day Cup.

That poor 2014 performance led to plenty of soul searching among the coaching and playing staff at Wantage Road, and Wakely says reaching Saturday’s finals day is a massive step in the right direction.

But he also says that unless they win the trophy at the weekend, nothing will have been achieved.

“Leading into this Twenty20 tournament, the last experience I had before that was lifting the Twenty20 trophy in 2013,” said Wakely.

“Last year, nothing went to plan for the club, and everything that could have gone wrong went wrong.

“We talked about making sure we upped it this year, we have been more focused on trying to achieve exactly what we wanted to.

“We targeted finals day as one of the big things because we knew we had a good white-ball team, and we have shown that.

“But ultimately we have played good cricket haven’t won anything.

“It is horrible coming away from finals day empty-handed and we would love to come back with the trophy.”