VIEW FROM THE BLUES: Refreshing change as Steelbacks shine in T20 opener

GOOD NIGHT - Steelbacks celebrate a wicket in their Friends Life t20 win over Gloucestershire last Friday
GOOD NIGHT - Steelbacks celebrate a wicket in their Friends Life t20 win over Gloucestershire last Friday
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The fact the Friends Life t20 Finals Day clashes with Northants’ tour match with the Australians is all you need know about what the club really thought about our chances of winning the prestigious one-day competition.

Like the Cobblers quietly preferring the lucrative Wembley play-offs to automatic promotion, Northants accepting that fixture clash suggests selling the Aussie game hard was the way to go, which is all the more confusing with the purchase of exciting power hitter Richard Levi for the Twenty20.

He has the world record for the fastest T20 hundred from just 45 balls and is here at Northampton for the next month or so.

He won’t be cheap, either, and with the club expecting to post a loss for this season, you do wonder why we didn’t invest that money in replacing Trent Copeland to secure LVC 2 promotion in pursuit of that particular £100,000 prize money, a far more viable prospect.

But without Rob Newton and big hitting all-rounder Steven Crook, a batsman was vital and it seems Levi is more about entertainment value and a replacement for those guys over any real push to win it.

I’m not complaining about it, but his signing sends out mixed messages.

The Gloucestershire Gladiators were first up under the lights on Friday night as the Steelbacks kicked off the slog with a big win in front of a useful home crowd, considering the weather.

An even bigger crowd is likely to turn up tomorrow night (Fri) now because of that win.

Even though the rain chopped the game in half, the buzz was better and the bars busier.

As it was a televised match, a central wicket was called upon and the boundaries big.

With Graeme White coming in for David Sales, it suggested more of the same from last year of taking the pace off the ball and chasing smaller scores.

But this was a refreshingly good pitch with bounce, and was just what the groundsman had promised,

Chief Executive David Smith understandd this particular cricket crowd are unsophisticated as far as the nuances of the game goes and aree in the ground to see sixes and fours, not 120 bores.

The strangest moment of the night was the continued inclusion of Mathew Spriegel in the side, with the unfortunate James Middlebrook forced to make way.

As it turned out, Spriegel wasn’t asked to bat or bowl, but you do wonder if he was played purely to justify his purchase and all the talk about him being a big player for us in the Twenty.

It certainly wasn’t on form.

I was surprised Gloucestershire chose to put us in for the delayed 8pm start in a 12 over match.

The outfield was wet and hard to grip the ball, and the Steelbacks batsmen quickly exploited the occasional wayward delivery to whack 124 for four, the brick outhouse Levi the only failure.

But it was hardly the conditions he would like after stepping off the plane.

A total of 16 boundaries scored in 12 overs was a great effort, and the batsmen had clearly thought about the risks of being caught on the ropes going for big shots from a central wicket (a big reason for our pathetic performance last year), so more fours and twos were the way to go.

If given the pitches, I fancy us to win a few big scoring games. My target remains four wins though.

The Steelbacks needed just five bowlers to blast the Gladiators back to Bristol.

Mohammad Azharullah was seriously deadly with his violent in-swinging yorkers for three for 23 and spinner White with a ‘man-of-the-match’ four for 14 as the Gloucestershire guys quickly chased and fell to big hit swipes to the ropes and splintered stumps.

You can clearly see the boys are playing hard for Alex Wakely and David Ripley, and that younger axis has got the fielders on their toes.

The boys didn’t fail in any discipline on the night as the Gladiators limped off for 83 for nine for the 41-run win.

This was the Steelbacks’ first home T20 win for two years, and probably not far off their highest score at Wantage Road for the same period of woe.

We certainly haven’t scored at 10 an over there for a very long time.

In perfect world the sun would have been blazing for this match, but a win in the first game is huge and should put at least 500 on the gate tomorrow night.

The ground looked at its smartest with new signage and a lick of paint and the gas burners that roar every time a team scores a six keeping the fans warm if it does chill over.

I do think the ECB need to rethink their booze policy though if they want to bring back the mega crowds.

The lads bringing in a four-pack after work would probably increase the bar take, as once you have had one you are in for the night.

I’m pretty sure if the clubs check their bar-takes back in 2005 when the crowds were huge and people were bringing cans in it would be higher than it is now.

The appeal of these games is they are just a big booze up and people feel relaxed and so rock up.

Seeing old folks having their luxury can of brown ale stripped out of their bag on the gate just saddens me, is all rather pathetic and against the spirit the freedoms of watching cricket.

The alcohol in the bar is no more violence-and-disorder inducing than the canned variety.