An uplifting start is made as the Steelbacks brush aside Gloucestershire

Northamptonshire Steelbacks got off to the perfect start in the Royal London Cup with a four-wicket victory over Gloucestershire at Cheltenham College.

Steven Crook picked up the key wicket of Michael Klinger then chipped in with 36 in the visitors' reply
Steven Crook picked up the key wicket of Michael Klinger then chipped in with 36 in the visitors' reply

Adam Rossington and David Willey were the architects of the win with 82 and four wickets respectively and their individual efforts were part of a solid and professional all-round performance.

Seemingly gone were the insecurities of the 20-over game which undermined progress in that particular arena and instead we had varied and incisive bowling and, for the most part, measured and clinical batting.

Of course, it is a touch too early to start making bold predictions but this should provide a timely lift in the mood ahead of Tuesday’s encounter with Worcestershire.

Having been put in on a arid-looking surface, the hosts made a cautious start that was out of kilter with the way the modern one-day game is played.

But with the use of a ball at each end and fielding restrictions that allow just four fielders outside the circle, rather than the five of previous years, there is benefit to be had from keeping wickets in hand so there was certainly logic in their method.

The taking of the second powerplay after a dozen overs - it needs to be used up before 40 overs have been bowled - further emphasised the caution first, expansion second plan.

And by and large, Gloucestershire stuck to it pretty well with Michael Klinger and Chris Dent going along nicely until the former called the latter for a run that wasn’t there, allowing Muhammad Azharullah to score a direct hit at the bowler’s end.

This came after Alex Gidman had been cleaned up by Willey early on and the left-armer would return the excellent figures of 4-33 from his 10-over allocation.

Dent was followed by Hamish Marshall and Ian Cockbain, both of whom fell to the effective Graeme White, and these dismissals meant ambitions needed to be tempered.

A score of 120-4 with 20 overs remaining was okay without being exceptional but while Klinger was there, having anchored the innings nicely, 250 plus was on the cards.

He was joined by Will Gidman and the pair pushed things along tidily to the point where something more substantial was likely but the fall of four wickets, three to Willey and the other, Klinger for a good 98, to Steven Crook,, for the addition of 10 runs put the visitors in control.

And it needed a late burst from Benny Howell, including a six over midwicket from the final ball, to push the score to an average 240-9.

The reply began in dubious style as Kyle Coetzer was hit in front during left-armer David Payne’s first over but after a few overs of inactivity, Rossington got things going with a slavo of boundaries and he was soon followed by Richard Levi.

Fifty had been wiped from the target after the initial 10 overs as the pair, who were given a life each courtesy of difficult missed chances at midwicket and behind the stumps, played with freedom before Levi miscued Gidman the younger to mid-on.

That came in the middle of the second, powerplay which concluded, 17 overs into the innings, with 99 on the board.

Rossington, continuing the good work he’s done since arriving from Lord’s, brought up his 50 from 55 balls with a ninth boundary and with White’s counterpart, Tom Smith, offering no control, the hosts suddenly looked short of options.

The limiting of available boundary fielders has definitely made a spinner’s life that much more difficult but Smith was scored off consistently on both sides of the wicket and all that achieved was to make his captain unsure of where to put his field.

With Matt Spriegel holding one end up, Rossington had three figures there for the taking but, on 82, he carelessly swept the part-time spin of Chris Dent to square-leg.

Crook entered the fray, taking no time at all to get going and although both he, Spriegel and Ben Duckett fell late on, it made no difference as the winning mark was passed with time to spare.