World's best T20 all-rounder Nabi to make home Steelbacks debut against Foxes
Overseas signing Mohammad Nabi will make his home debut for the Steelbacks in Sunday's crucial bottom-of-the-table clash with Leicestershire Foxes at the County Ground (start 2.30pm).
The Afghanistan star, who is nicknamed The President, made his first appearance for the club in Thursday night's defeat at Derbyshire Falcons, just a few hours after completing his 10-day Covid quarantine in a London hotel.
Nabi hit a quickfire 20 with the bat, including two big sixes, and then bowled four wicketless overs for 33 runs as the Steelbacks stumbled to their fourth defeat in a row.
And Northants will be hoping that with a match and a couple of days' training under his belt, the ICC's top-ranked T20 international all-rounder can have a real impact on their fortunes with nine matches still to play.
David Ripley's side did at least get their first point of the campaign on Friday night as their clash at Worcestershire Rapids was abandoned without a ball being bowled thanks to rain.
That point took them off the bottom of the North Group, with the Foxes dropping below them having picked up zero points in their five matches to date.
The Grace Road been competitive in every game they have played, but have lost twice to Lancashire Lightning as well as going down to Birmingham Bears, Yorkshire Vikings and the Falcons.
In Scott Steele and Joshua Inglis they have two batsmen in form having scored more than 150 runs apiece this season, while they also have their own bowling threat from Afghanistan in pace bowler Naveen Ul-Haq.
The Steelbacks will be desperate to at least start firing as a unit, with the batsmen enduring another nightmare at Derby, collapsing to 81 for seven before a late rally from Graeme White (35) and Tom Taylor (20no) saw the team post 141 for eight in their 20 overs.
That collapse continued a dismal trend with the bat for Steelbacks, who have now lost eight of their past nine T20 fixtures.
Their only win came in the final group game of the 2020 summer, when once again White and Taylor produced the fireworks to rescue the team from 71 for six to stun the Bears at Edgbaston.
But the batting records make for sorry reading in the other eight games.
In those fixtures, the Steelbacks have been reduced to 81 for seven, 82 or nine, 43 for three, 98 for seven, 80 for seven, 89 for four, 90 for four and 98 all out.
That is a trend that simply cannot continue if this season is to be rescued, and the likes of Richard Levi, Adam Rossington, Rob Keogh and Saif Zaib need to quickly find their form.
And left-arm spinner White for one believes he and his team-mates are capable of regaining their spark.
“At the moment we’re not firing and haven’t been good enough," said White.
"That’s hurtful to say because we pride ourselves as a good side in this competition but we’ll dust ourselves off, reflect on it and go again, that’s all we can really do."
Talking about the chances of Northants launching a bid for a top four finish the get into the quarter-finals, he added: “If I’m still breathing it’s never going to be an early finish.
“We’ve got so much talent in that changing room that can win us games.
"We’ve got to stay positive, we’ve got to stay upbeat and play that aggressive cricket in the Steelbacks way and if we do that, get a run of games going, you can really get on a roll in this competition.
"We’re not out of it and we’ve just got to come back next time and play tough hard cricket.”
As it stands, and with 18 points still to play for, the Steelbacks are six points off the top four and and eight points behind leaders Bears.
Northants are expected to name an unchanged squad for the visit of the Foxes, while the Foxes have announced the same 14 that was selected for their most recent match, the loss to the Bears last Wednesday.
Northants Steelbacks: Adam Rossington (c/wk), Nathan Buck, Brandon Glover, Rob Keogh, Richard Levi, Mohammad Nabi, Wayne Parnell, Luke Procter, Ben Sanderson, Tom Taylor, Charlie Thurston, Ricardo Vasconcelos, Graeme White, Saif Zaib
Leicestershire Foxes: Colin Ackermann (C), Ed Barnes, Will Davis, Gavin Griffiths, Lewis Hill, Josh Inglis (wk), Louis Kimber, Arron Lilley, Ben Mike, Naveen, Rishi Patel, Callum Parkinson, Scott Steel, Harry Swindells (wk)