Taylor calls on struggling Steelbacks to show their quality against in-form Notts Outlaws

It's last chance saloon time for the Northants Steelbacks as they host Notts Outlaws at the County Ground on Sunday afternoon (start 2.30pm).
Steelbacks all-rounder Tom TaylorSteelbacks all-rounder Tom Taylor
Steelbacks all-rounder Tom Taylor

Friday night's dismal 35-run defeat at the hands of Lancashire Lightning means that the Steelbacks have to win all of their remaining five matches to stand a chance of claiming a top four finish in the Vitality Blast North Group.

Four of those fixtures take place over the course of the next six days, with today's clash with third-placed Outlaws followed by a trip to Yorkshire on Tuesday, a home date with Derbyshire on Wednesday and another away day at Leicestershire Foxes on Friday.

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The final fixture of the campaign is at Old Trafford against Lancashire on Sunday, July 2.

The Steelbacks are set to name an unchanged squad for the Father's Day date with the Outlaws, who are one of three teams at the top of the table on 12 points.

The Steelbacks are second on six points from nine matches, and are now four points adrift of fourth-placed Lightning.

Five wins in their remaining matches would see the Steelbacks amass a total of 16 points, and that still might not be enough to qualify for the quarter-finals.

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But Northants have to take care of their own business, starting by beating Notts, and all-rounder Tom Taylor believes they are capable of doing that, despite a run of three straight defeats.

"It is going to be a hard game, of course it is, but every game is hard in this North Group," said Taylor, who top-scored against Lightning with an unbeaten 40.

"I feel everybody has a great team, but I feel we have a great team, and on any day we can match them all.

"We will go toe-to-toe with Notts and the best team will come out on top, and hopefully that is us."

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If they are to compete with the Outlaws, then the Steelbacks are going to have to up their game significantly in all departments.

As well as the batters and bowlers needing to improve, the team's fielding also has to sharpen up, with Friday's loss to Lancashire seeing a sub-standard performance, with dropped catches and misfields costing the team.

"We have had some sparks in the field," said Taylor.

"There was Cobby's (Josh Cobb) catch here on the telly (against Bears), and there have been bits of brilliance, but there has been some really average stuff in there as well, and that is what you can't afford to do.

"When you are giving teams 10, 15 even 20 runs and dropping catches, you are not going to win many games.

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"I think everybody has to be 10 per cent, if not 20 per cent, better than they have been hunting down the ball.

"That's what we have to look for, and energy is the big thing in the field, especially for us.

"You know you are going to go for boundaries and balls are going to hit gaps, and it is going to come thick and fast sometimes.

"But you just have to throw your body on the line, and I feel we are not doing that at the minute."

And on the team's mood going into these final five matches?

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"There is belief in the dressing room, but there is disappointment as well, and you have to be real about it, we are struggling," said Taylor.

"We are also a good side, and we have to show that in these last five games.

"If not then we don't go through, but we have to go into the matches with our heads held high and try and put on some good shows."

Notts are on a real roll in the Blast, and are aiming for a fifth straight win in the competition when they come to the County Ground.

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Steelbacks squad (likely): Willey, Gay, Vasconcelos, Lynn, Broad, McManus, Zaib, Sanderson, Taylor, Heldreich, Russell, Tye, Keogh, Sales, G White

Notts squad: Afridi, Ball, Carter, Clarke, Hales, Hameed, Harrison, James, McKerr, Montgomery, Moores, Mullaney, Munro, Patel