Head coach Ripley says T20 Blast will be Northants' priority when season starts

Northants head coach David Ripley has confirmed the club’s priority when the season gets underway will be the T20 Blast.

Northants head coach David Ripley
Northants head coach David Ripley

But he admits the prospect of the ‘grand final’ at Lord’s that will wrap up the the inaugural Bob Willis Trophy four-day compeitition is also an enticing one.

No cricket has been possible so far this summer due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but the campaign is finally due to get underway on August 1.

The England & Wales Cricket Board announced last week that the 18 counties had agreed to a split red and white ball mini season, with the action getting underway with four-day cricket, before the Blast starts on August 27.

Northants will resume with a quartet of four-day games before the Blast kicks off, and then play a fifth group match before a five-day grand final will be played at Lord’s to determine the competition winners.

The County don’t know as yet who or where they will be playing as the fixture list is yet to be confirmed.

And although Ripley concedes he would have rather have played 50-over matches instead of four-day cricket, Northants will embrace the new competition, and do their best to win it, while insisting the main focus has to be on the Blast.

“It is a little frustrating that we had to wait so long for the confirmation that we will be playing four day cricket, and that we now have to wait for the fixture list to find out where we are playing,” said Ripley.

“But we do know we will be starting off with four four-day matches, and that is absolutely fine by us.

“As a club we would have preferred to have been playing 50-over cricket, but we are happy to play red ball cricket and will be as competitive as we can be.

“There is going to be a grand final played over five days at Lord’s in September, and there will be clubs who may decide to throw everything into getting to that, but for us it is not the priority.

“We will try and win the matches, and it would be great to play some great cricket and play that Lord’s final, but there is quite a lot of cricket to be played and we see it as a chance to share opportunities around among the squad.

“I know there will be other counties who will think like us and do a similar thing, but I am sure there will be others who will pick their strongest team to get to Lord’s, but for us the priority is the Blast.”

The Blast will also be a shorter competiton than usual.

In recent seasosns the group matches have been split into north and south sections, with 14 league games ahead of the knockout stages.

But this year the competition will revert to the original groups, which means Northants are set to return to the Midlands/Wales/West Division, which should see them take on Gloucestershire, Worcestershire, Glamorgan, Somerset and Warwickshire.

“We will be in a group of six, and we will play everybody home and away so we will have 10 games in the group stage,” said Ripley.

“The Blast is something we will be aiming to play our strongest team in every game, as it is an important competition for us.”