Key men in the runs as preparations kick in ahead of T20 Blast opener next week

Northants are flying in the LV= Insurance County Championship and face a huge game against Kent at Canterbury this week - but the little matter of the Vitality T20 Blast campaign is now just around the corner.

Thursday, 3rd June 2021, 9:26 am
Updated Thursday, 3rd June 2021, 9:30 am
Richard Levi clubbed 98 from just 46 balls as the Northants IIs beat Gloucestershire IIs in a T20 friendly on Tuesday

And with that in mind, preparations have begun in earnest this week, with the second team T20 tournament being effectively used as a warm-up competition ahead of next Friday’s Blast opener against Worcestershire at the County Ground.

The Northants second team are currently in the middle of a busy run of T20 fixtures.

They kick-started the campaign with a double header against Gloucestershire at Bristol on Tuesday - winning one and losing one - before they travelled to Newport to take on Glamorgan yesterday.

Josh Cobb was in the runs for Northants IIs against Gloucestershire and Glamorgan

Tomorrow (Friday) there is another Second XI T20 Central Group match against Worcestershire IIs at the County Ground, before the sides then play again in a friendly.

It’s a similar story on Monday when the Steelbacks go to the Edgbaston Community Sports Ground in Birmingham to take on Warwickshire IIs in another double header, before Tuesday sees the Steelbacks head to Desborough Town CC to take on Warwickshire in another league game.

The teams that took on Gloucestershire and Glamorgan included Steelbacks skipper Josh Cobb and key Blast players Richard Levi, Wayne Parnell and Graeme White, as well as Ben Curran and Charlie Thurston.

Tuesday’s matches at Bristol proved to be high scoring affairs.

Wayne Parnell is set to make his Steelbacks T20 debut next Friday

In the match they won, Northants eased to 206 for two to chase down the home side’s 202 for six, with Levi hitting 98 from 46 balls, Parnell 57 not out from 27 balls and Curran 36 from 25.

The other match saw the County post 186 for six with Cobb making 78 not out from 55 balls and Parnell 49 from 30, but Gloucester got home in that one with eight wickets to spare.

“Richard Levi played very well, Josh Cobb played very well, and also Wayne Parnell,” said head coach David Ripley

“Gloucester were very strong, they had a full strength side out as they used the games to get some practice in.

“We also have two games on Friday and some more cricket next week as well, so hopefully by the time we get to next Friday we will have done all we can.”

The match against Glamorgan IIs on Wednesday was hit by rain, and Northants (71-2, Cobb 37no) lost by two runs to Glamorgan (141-6) on the D/L Method.

The seconds’ T20 group is being led by bowling coach Chris Liddle, with Ripley and batting coach John Sadler taking care of first-team duties at Canterbury over the next four days.

And Ripley is delighted with how things have worked out with the coaching team he put together ahead of the 2020 season.

Last summer was hit badly by coronavirus, but the benefits of having such a strong coaching set up is now paying dividends.

“Chris Liddle is with the lads, and he’ll do the games on Friday and Monday as well,” said Ripley.

“John Sadler will do the game on the Tuesday, and then we will all be together when the competition starts.”

Liddle is the ideal man to lead the IIs in the T20 competitions, as it is a form of the game he excelled in as a player in the not too distant past, and one he enjoys as a coach as well, both at county level and at international level as well in his role with the Netherlands.

“Chris really loves the T20, and I would think it’s fair to say that is his first love,” says Ripley.

“All the stuff he has done with Holland is in white ball cricket, as that is all they play, and he did a really good job with them, getting them to the T20 World Cup.

“He loves that side of the game so he is quite happy to be leading a bit this week, and Josh is there as well.

“They will be doing a bit of planning on fields and powerplays and stuff, and then we will all regroup next week.

“The guys will come back after the Kent game and have a day off, and then on Tuesday the whole group will be in and getting ready for Friday night.”