Head coach Ripley 'gutted' by Steelbacks' Vitality T20 Blast failure

David Ripley says he is 'gutted' by the fact Northants Steelbacks finished bottom of the Vitality T20 Blast North Group table.

Monday, 19th July 2021, 6:15 pm
Northants Steelbacks head coach David Ripley
Northants Steelbacks head coach David Ripley

The head coach admits he went into the competition 'really excited' at how the team he had assembled would perform, with a top four finish and qualification for the knockout stages the minimum target.

But the Steelbacks endured a nightmare start to the tournament as they lost their first five matches, and although they did eventually find some form and won some games, it was not enough.

Northants were already out of the competition ahead of Sunday's final day defeat to Birmingham Bears, with the 14-run loss at Edgbaston confirming their rock-bottom placing in the league table, having won only four fixtures.

Rob Keogh was one of the Steelbacks' standout performers

And that is tough to take for Ripley.

"We have finished bottom of the table, and we have to be gutted by that," admitted the head coach, who led the Steelbacks to T20 title glory in 2013 and 2016.

"We will all reflect on why that was, and nobody will do that more than myself.

"We never got out of the blocks, and we didn't have a lot of luck with some key players."

Mohammad Nabi missed the first three games due to being in quarantine

There were issues for the Steelbacks, with star overseas signing Mohammad Nabi missing the first three matches as he was forced to quarantine following his arrival in the UK.

Skipper Josh Cobb then suffered a hamstring injury in the second match of the tournament, before his replacement as captain, Adam Rossington, was also sidelined with a thumb problem.

There was also the fact some key players simply didn't perform.

"In the warm-ups, Richard Levi was striking the ball really well but then couldn't get off to a start," said Ripley.

"Then we had Cobby's injury when he was playing well, Nabi we couldn't get here, and then Rosso got injured.

"It was a bit of a tale of woe and there will be a bit of a reflection from everybody.

"If we had gone as well in the first half of the competition as we did in the second, then we might have had something to play for on Sunday.

"It was just that losing five on the bounce at the start is going to take some coming back from.

And he added: "With the team we had assembled, I was really excited that we could certainly be in that top four and it is obviously very disappointing to end up where we finished.

"It is disappointing to miss out on the knockout stages, and I think it is more the way we missed out.

"If we had failed on the last day of the campaign and gone down by 14 runs in Birmingham in a decider, but we were dead and buried before then."

Despite the team's overall failure, Ripley says there were still some positives to take from the competition, with Rob Keogh the standout performer, scoring three half-centuries as he amassed 347 runs at an average of 49.57.

"Rob's performance was a real positive, and perhaps another thing to remember is that Alex Wakely wasn't in our side," said Ripley.

"What a player Al has been for us, but Rob batted so well at number four that he has maybe emerged as the next Alex Wakely for us, that bit of glue around the middle order.

"He is capable of hitting a few boundaries at the end and getting a good score with a strike rate of 120 or whatever, being involved in partnerships which is kind of what Alex brought for us.

"So Rob had a really good competition, and I think Saif Zaib showed glimpses again of what a dangerous player he can be, and I think Ricardo Vasconcelos went well at the top of the order.

"I think he found it difficult batting at number three, but once he went to opening the batting he was very good.

"He had a bit of a crusty start to the comp trying to bat at three as he hadn't had much experience of that, but we know he is a good player so we kept backing him to find a way.

"So there were some positives, but in general I will be honest it was very disappointing."