Tuesday, 9th August sees the Steelbacks host Middlesex in the second of this year’s T20 Blast quarter-finals. Following a largely successful campaign thus far, the hosts are well-placed to progress, once again, to finals day.
Despite consecutive defeats, both to the Yorkshire Vikings, in their final two group games, the Steelbacks finished second in the North Group, securing a home quarter-final. Alex Wakely’s side sealed qualification with a comprehensive win over the Birmingham Bears, and if they can match that performance on Tuesday night they should get past Middlesex too. While T20 games often hinge on what happens on the day, Northants are surely favourites.
All of the Steelbacks’ batsmen are capable of producing something special. Richard Levi and Adam Rossington have both demonstrated their T20 prowess this season, and Ben Duckett is in the form of his life. Alex Wakely, Steven Crook, Josh Cobb, and Rory Kleinveldt also make up an incredibly powerful middle-order, well capable of maintaining a run-rate of around 10 per over. In the bowling department, Graeme White enjoys bowling at Wantage Road. He took a hat-trick against Birmingham, and is incredibly hard to get away when the pitch is dry. Seekkuge Prasanna, David Ripley has confirmed, is also available to support him. The leg-spinning all-rounder from Sri Lanka provides another slow bowling option, and is a destructive batsman on his day. Kleinveldt, Gleeson, Azarullah, and Moin Asraf provide plenty of seam-bowling options, too, depending on who makes the final XI.
Put simply, the Steelbacks have an excellent balance in T20 cricket. They are also used to winning. They made the final last year, falling just short against Lancashire. An excellent team spirit, where everyone appears to know their roles, might well give the hosts the edge over their visitors. Middlesex do boast some dangerous white-ball players, such as Dawid Malan, George Bailey, James Franklin, and England’s skipper, Eoin Morgan (although it is unclear whether he will feature, having missed the last two games of the group stages). Tuesday’s visitors, however, do not appear to have the balance that Northants do. They have fielded some significant changes throughout the campaign, meaning their players might not feel as settled in each of their respective roles.
Tuesday night is a great opportunity for the Steelbacks to reach their second consecutive finals day. Having enjoyed an excellent season thus far in white-ball cricket, few would bet against them to achieve just that.