Pace bowler Kelly to stay on at Steelbacks as Neesham's Blast arrival is delayed

Northants Steelbacks have retained the services of Australian import Matt Kelly to cover for Jimmy Neesham in the opening matches of the Vitality Blast.

By Jeremy Casey
Monday, 23rd May 2022, 5:11 pm
Matt Kelly in Big Bash League action for Perth Scorchers against Adelaide Strikers in December
Matt Kelly in Big Bash League action for Perth Scorchers against Adelaide Strikers in December

New Zealand all-rounder Neesham is still involved in the Indian Premier League, although he has only made two appearances this season for Rajasthan Royals, the most recent of which was on May 15.

But he is seen as a key member of the squad and Royals are playing in the qualifier on Tuesday (May 24), where they will be hoping to stay on course for Sunday's final.

The winner of the match between Royals and Gujarat Titans goes straight into the final at Ahmedabad (May 29), while the losing side gets another opportunity in a second qualifying match which will take place on Friday (May 27).

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Jimmy Neesham's arrival in Northampton has been delayed as he is still involved in the Indian Premier League

That schedule looks set to rule Neesham out of the Steelbacks'opening three matches of their North Group campaign, and his place in the squad will be taken by Kelly, who has been part of the County Championship squad for the past six weeks.

Steelbacks travel to Birmingham Bears on Thursday, host Durham and Friday and then go to Trent Bridge to play Notts Outlaws on Sunday.

They then host Leicestershire Foxes at the County Ground next Wednesday, when they will hope to have Neesham available for selection.

Kelly is a more than handy replacement for the Kiwi international.

The 27-year-old pace bowler has been a regular performer for Perth Scorchers in the Big Bash League, claiming 41 wickets in 27 matches at an average of 19 and with a strike-rate of a wicket every 14 balls.

His most recent Big Bash League performance in mid-January saw him claim four for 25 as Scorchers beat Melbourne Stars by 47 runs.

“This was always in the pipeline with the IPL being as long as it is and obviously they (the Royals) have gone pretty well,” said Steelbacks skipper Josh Cobb.

“I think it’ll be two games Neesham misses and we know plenty about Matt already, there’s not much discrepancy between the two.

"It’s not quite like for like but he gives us four good overs and can hit a long ball too.”