Wakely’s champions want to get even better

The Steelbacks claimed T20 glory at Edgbaston last year (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)
The Steelbacks claimed T20 glory at Edgbaston last year (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)
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Northants have shown they are pretty handy at performing in the T20 stuff during the past few seasons.

The Steelbacks have won two of the past four T20 Blast tournaments, beating Surrey in the final in 2013 and Durham in the showpiece last season.

They also reached the final in 2015, losing narrowly to Lancashire Lightning, so there is no doubt the Steelbacks will once again be ones to watch this time round.

But complacency has certainly not been allowed to set in at the County Ground.

Northants suffered disappointment as defending champions in 2014, winning just four of their 14 group games.

And skipper Alex Wakely, who missed that campaign due to an Achilles injury, knows his team must continue to improve if they are to avoid a similar fate this time round.

“I’m pretty sure people will write us off again - they normally do,” Wakely said.

“We’ve been pretty lucky we’ve been able to play on the underdog tag over the past few years, but I don’t know whether we’ll be able to do that this year.

“Maybe teams will take us a bit more seriously this time.

“But we believe we’ve got a team who can beat anyone we come up against and obviously we’re going to have to do what we’ve done during the past couple of years.

“We know we’re going to have to improve, though.

“It’s very dangerous in sport to stand still.

“Other teams are going to be preparing differently and trying to perform new skills so we’ll have to do the same to compete with them.”

There is no doubt that Northants relish being the underdogs in T20 cricket as they have regularly caused what have been perceived as upsets over the years.

But there will be no shock if the Steelbacks once again go a long way in the competition in 2017.

“Twenty20 is where we’ve had most of our success over the past few years and there’s nothing better than playing in front of a big crowd here in Northampton,” said Wakely, whose side welcome Derbyshire to the County Ground for the T20 curtain raiser on Friday night.

“Friday nights here have been amazing over the years and why wouldn’t we want to play them?”

Northants have a very similar squad to last season and have been boosted by the arrival of Nathan Buck.

Buck has already made a big impression at the County and Wakely knows selection won’t be easy this year.

“I certainly do think we’ve got enough depth,” he said.

“The squad size we’ve got here has hindered us a little bit in the Championship because we can’t rest players, but in Twenty20 we try to put our best side out on the park all the time.

“Everyone wants to be out there, everyone wants to play in front of the big crowds and we’ve got a squad who can beat anyone.

“When me and Rips have to make the tough decisions over selection, that’s what we want.

“It hasn’t always been the case here at Northants, but it looks like it will be this year.”