Northants head coach Ripley keen on 50-over playing return

Head coach David Ripley says Northants will be pressing for 50-over cricket to be the first format played once the 2020 season finally gets underway in August.

Northants head coach David Ripley
Northants head coach David Ripley

The England & Wales Cricket Board confirmed earlier this week that the 2020 professional domestic campaign is to start on August 1, but it is not yet clear whether the initial competition played will be one-day or four-day cricket.

The Vitality T20 Blast is pencilled in for late August and September, but the 18 first-class counties are meeting next week to try and decide whether the cricket played ahead of that will be of the red ball variety, or 50-over white ball.

And Ripley says the preference of Northants is for there to be a 50-over competition.

David Ripley says Northants feel that a return with 50-over cricket would be the most sensible approach

The County bowlers returned to training at Wantage Road on Wednesday, with the batters to follow next week, and asked about the upcoming mini-season, Ripley said: "We are delighted we are going to be doing something, that is the overriding emotion.

"We would prefer to play 50-over cricket as a club, and as players, because we feel that is the safest and most sensible option.

"But if we end up playing red ball cricket, then we will enjoy that when it comes to it."

Initially, the sport will return behind closed doors, but there is still hope cricket fans will be able to see some live action.

"The Blast will definitely be played, and I think that is wedged in for the end of August and into September, and there is still some hope that we might get some crowds in for that," said Ripley.

"If things relent a little bit and continue to improve, then we might be able to see something like a quarter of capacity attendance at cricket grounds.

"That is still the masterplan, which is why I think that competition is likely to take up September, just so it gives us more chance (of getting spectators in).

"Then whatever they choose to start us off with will be played in August."

With regards to the format that will be played, one of the concerns with a red-ball competition is it would mean players having to spend four nights in a hotel for away games, whereas it would only be a maximum of one night away for 50-over fixtures.

Ripley believes the latter option just makes more sense, but said that whatever is decided, and whatever competition is pencilled in, Northants would be ready and prepared.

But he also admitted the initial fixtures will be more about getting the squad out on the field and playing again, rather than results.

"Whatever competition is played, there is no promotion or relegation, and we would be keen to do well in it," he said.

"But it is really going to be about getting playing again, and anybody with a niggle we wouldn't play.

"If it was a big, must-win game you might try and coax somebody through or get them to have an injection or things like that, but it is not going to like that for me.

"So if we do have a four-day game and we get to the position where a bowler isn't ready to go into it and bowl 30 or 35 overs, then we will just hold them back until the following week.

"I am laid back about using the whole squad and being sensible, as we don't want any long-term injuries based on rushing players back.

"Whatever the competition is we will take it seriously and we want to do well, but I definitely see it as a squad competition to get everybody playing.

"It is about sharing the opportunity, because all of the lads have missed out on cricket."

That first month's cricket would also be about sharpening the players' skills ahead of the T20 Blast, and Ripley said: "I would like the whole squad to be involved in that first month's cricket, and then when we get to the Blast that would be slightly different.

"That is a renowned competition, there will be a finals day, and we probably look to play our best team in most games.

"But the other cricket I am pretty relaxed about it, I just want to see the lads get some opportunities and just get back out on the cricket field."