VIEW FROM THE BLUES: Welcome double boost for the Steelbacks

MAIN MAN - Steven Crook in batting action for Steelbacks against Warwickshire on Sunday (Picture: Kirsty Edmonds)
MAIN MAN - Steven Crook in batting action for Steelbacks against Warwickshire on Sunday (Picture: Kirsty Edmonds)

So, after the Cobblers’ feeble effort at Wembley and the Saints’ war at Twickenham, it’s over to the Stillbottoms to complete the hat-trick of finals.

Hey, stop laughing. It could happen - and Brasso is on special in Wilkinson’s!

But here’s the thing. I reckon being flushed off the back pages by our football and rugby teams has got to the Stillbottoms, and they felt they needed to put in a performance in the Yorkshire Bank 40 this month to keep the local sports fans coming out over the summer.

The surprise back-to-back wins over the Bank Holiday weekend have proved we can compete in this format and at least have a chance in the Twenty20 to entertain and so sell those tickets.

The groundsmen tell me they are expecting faster T20 pitches this year, and so scores of 150-plus, so entertainment is to be had.

But we will wait and see on that one.

Idyllic New Road was first up in brilliant sunshine on Sunday for the Worcester Royals.

There was a healthy crowd, ice creams and sunburn, with deckchairs and floppy hats a reminder of the good old days of Sunday cricket.

How could you not want to perform on that stage?

The Stillbottoms hit first on a slowish turner and posted the perfunctory 220 for these oh so familiar 40 over tops now.

The first four squeezed the runs they needed to secure the solid start, and player of the season Stephen Crook then hit an unbeaten 61 to it over 200 and set a decent score.

Last year we would have slogged out for 185 on a pitch like this.

The key to getting a score on a slow pitch is to not get out, to build partnerships, and try to get the par score and defend it on that slow pitch.

The Royals looked in it at halfway, but pleasingly tight seam bowling from David Willey (3-28), Trent Copeland (2-31) and Andrew Hall (2-32) forced them to hit out late to stay in it, and that was that as they slumped from 98 for three to to 177 all out, the classic one-day crumble.

Once their Sri-Lankan bat Samaraweera was dismissed for 78 the job was done.

I like the fact Willey was economical here and is learning the limited overs game.

And I also like the fact Copeland wants to play every YB40 as overseas players tend not to do that these days.

Matt Spriegel, I’m not so sure about.

He scratches around a lot with the bat and always looks like he will go for runs.

I hope I’m proved wrong as we will need him to rev up the spin department for the Twenty20, but I still feel Con de Lange is the better option for the shorter game.

That said, the bowling unit did gel and a dominant 43-run victory was very welcome - it had been two years since we last won away in the 40.

Match two was another sunny encounter, be it with a brisk cool wind rustling one or two toupees at Wantage Road!

A healthy Bank Holiday Monday crowd rocked up for the annual family day.

The booze ban killed the atmosphere some, as the rowdy visiting Warwickshire Bears fans were clearly bamboozled that they couldn’t take beer in, and not too keen on paying four quid a pint.

I do feel the club have exploited the Wendell situation in the media to force people to buy the same violence-inducing alcohol from the in-house bars, and it was noticeable Wendell was not present at the game on Monday.

But as it was a family day, I suppose it’s best the kids don’t have to suffer rowdy Brumies all afternoon!

The Bears are a team who can dismiss you with ease when in the mood.

But with injures to key players, Northants again farmed a decent score off tight bowling on another slowish central pitch, Crook (40) was again the man with the bat to edge the total up to a useful score, setting Bears 230 to win.

The first four repeated their efforts at New Road by building a solid base with good partnerships, and you can clearly see the Steelbacks have worked on the batting plans.

At 12 for three in reply it looked good for Northants, but a 100 partnership from Porterfield (47) and (65) Clarke soon made it look bad.

But the improvements had been made from the Sussex game that allowed the Sharks to win easily from that point, and our bowlers bit at the right time for 199 all out this time around.

It was nice to see Lee Daggett back in the mix with his none for 27 off his eight overs, and Hall seems to be enjoying his cricket more these days without the pressure of captaincy and took two vital wickets.

But Crook was the man, this time doing it with the ball with a career best five for 36 to win the game.

I was reticent about him coming back, but it’s always nice when players prove you wrong. What do I know?

By winning these two games it helps to glue up the confidence in the championship and build a buzz in the team.

We can now stand back and say we have lost to the best two teams in the group and so are not out of it. Who doesn’t like winning?

Let’s hope the victories get the punters back and the club lifts the booze ban to really pack them in.

The any other business was the squad game at a soggy Durham university.

It’s lost its first-class status, so it made sense that Rips got a good look at his youngsters for the week up north.

Scoring 243 for nine declared and 125 without loss was enough crease time to check out the batters, Rob Keogh the most notable with a half-century in each innings.

He gelled well with captain for the day Kyle Coetzer, and the opening pair helped themselves to a hundred runs each off the students in the two innings.

Keogh playing so solid and up the order must mean he is most likely to come into the championship team.

Bowling wise for Northants it was Pakistani quickie Azharullah that impressed, taking five for 65 from 22 overs, this level of cricket clearly below him.

He seems quite quick and experienced and maybe a first team option sooner rather than later.

We are going to need everyone in the coming months.