Steelbacks head coach Ripley still targeting Blast Finals Day despite losing start

David Ripley still believes the Steelbacks are capable of reaching the Vitality T20 Blast Finals Day.

Northants Steelbacks head coach David Ripley
Northants Steelbacks head coach David Ripley

The head coach has seen his team slide to comprehensive defeats in their opening three North Group fixtures, which were all played at the County Ground.

Northants now go on the road for the first time as they travel to Derbyshire Falcons on Thursday night (start 7pm), before another trip to Worcestershire Rapids on Friday (5.30pm).

With 11 group games still to go, there is still all to play for and Ripley knows from experience that things can turn very quickly in T20 cricket.

In the summer of 2015 Northants also lost their opening three matches of the competition, only to recover superbly and go on to reach the final, where they were beaten by Lancashire Lightning at Edgbaston.

And Ripley will be using that example to keep his players believing as they head into the clash against a Derbyshire side who have also struggled so far, losing three and winning one of their four fixtures.

"We have been here before, or certainly I have because there are not that many players still here from 2015, when we lost our first three and then got to the final," said Ripley.

"If you get some momentum, and at the moment the momentum is going the other way, but once you start playing well and you can avoid injury then I think you can get on a run.

"I still feel we have got a good team, and we can get on a run and win five out of six and things turn quickly.

"We might then be winning matches at the right end of the tournament just as you are going into the quarter-finals, so I have to keep believing that.

"If I am stood her in five days and we are six down from six, then it is going to be difficult to convince anybody that we are going to reach Finals Days.

"But where we are now, I still feel it is on."

To get on any sort of run, the team is going to have to improve its performance in all areas, and in particular in the batting department.

Tuesday's night startling collapse that saw the Steelbacks lose seven wickets for 17 runs in six overs to go from 62 for two to 89 for nine is the obvious low point.

But in the matches prior to that they were also reduced to 52 for four and 43 for three in the opening six overs or so, and Ripley knows his batsmen have to start laying firmer foundations.

"We need a start with the bat," said the head coach. "Some of our guys up the top have held their hand up, and we need a 50 or 60 out of those guys.

"We need them to still play positively, there is no point asking those guys to go out and keep wickets in hand, that's not the template for T20 success.

"But it is obviously a fine line, and we are short of runs there."

And although Ripley wants his batters to keep attacking, he does think it would be beneficial if they now try and bat first rather than chase.

"We have some good players at the top of the order and we haven't found a way to get ourselves out of the blocks," he said.

"We will reflect on that, but I do feel it would be a big ask to go to Derby, win the toss and then stick them in having lost three games chasing.

"I feel we maybe need to take a bit of pressure off ourselves, go and bat with a bit of freedom in the first innings and try and post a score.

"We need our batters in for longer."

The Steelbacks will be without skipper Josh Cobb for anything up to three weeks after he suffered a hamstring strain while batting in the loss to Notts Outlaws on Sunday.

Adam Rossington will captain the side in his absence, while the team is set to be boosted at Derby by a first appearance of the season for overseas signing Mohammad Nabi.

After flying into the UK, the Afghanistan all-rounder completed his quarantine period on Thursday morning and is expected to be thrown straight into the fray.