Crook says on-song Steelbacks aiming to be the talk of the town

CROWD-PLEASER - Northants all-rounder Steven Crook
CROWD-PLEASER - Northants all-rounder Steven Crook

Steven Crook says he and his Steelbacks team-mates are delighted they are getting the people of Northants ‘excited’ and ‘talking about cricket’ again.

The Australian-born all-rounder misses out on the opening Friends Life t20 clash of the summer at the County Ground tonight due to a fractured finger.

But he will be at Wantage Road cheering his team-mates on, and a decent-sized crowd is expected through the turnstiles as the County open their campaign against Gloucestershire Gladiators (start 6.30pm).

And Crook is hoping the Steelbacks can turn on the style to ensure those that do turn up come back to the County Ground for more.

“It is fantastic playing in front of big crowds,” said Crook, who is hoping he will be fit for next Friday’s second match of the campaign against Warwickshire Bears.

“Hopefully the results over the past few weeks have shown that we can play some good cricket, and if a good crowd turns up on Friday night then we will be able to go out and do that again.

“That is exciting, and to get people talking about cricket is what we are supposed to be doing as professionals.

“We want people to get excited about it, and representing the county is important to us.

“We want to go out there and represent the county and town, and run well and win games.

“Hopefully the team will be able to put on a good show for the people that turn out.”

The Steelbacks go into the Friends Life t20 campaign in great form.

Despite last week’s hammering at the hands of Lancashire, they are top of LV= Championship Division Two, and they are also second in Group A of YB40 on the back of five straight wins in that competition.

Injuries to Crook and others, such as Rob Newton, Stephen Peters, have been a problem, but the T20 line-up is boosted by imports in the shape of Australian Cameron White and South African Richard Levi, a man who holds the record for the fastest 100 (from 45 balls) in T20 internationals.

The County will come up against Somerset. Warwickshire, Worcestershire, Gloucestershire and Glamorgan in the Mid/West/Wales Group.

Northants had a disastrous campaign in 2012, winning just one of their 10 group games, but Crook, who re-signed for the club in the winter after a twoyear stint at Middlesex, is confident there will be a big improvement this time around.

“We are looking forward to what is going to be a challenging T20 campaign,” said Crook, who has been in superb form with bat and ball this summer.

“We recognised over the winter that that is an area which we can improve, as we did with our 40 over stuff.

“It is an exciting game, and if we play well and a few teams underestimate us then we might get a few results.”

And he added: “We are quietly confident, but we know we have to work hard, that is what it is all about.

“If we work hard and make sure we execute our skills well, then who knows what can happen?

“We haven’t performed particularly well in the competition over the past couple of years, but I think we could maybe surprise a few teams this year.”

The County have had the advantage of three clear days of practise to get ready for the T20 following Monday’s YB40 win over Worcestershire, but Crook says the most important thing for the team is to get themselves mentally prepared.

Crook said: “We do prepare for the Twenty20, but there’s not a huge amount of difference to the skills you perform for a 40 over game – it’s just half the time!

“But it is important we focus our minds on the challenge ahead and what that means.

“We need to work out what it takes to win a T20 game, and how we make ourselves competitive and how we get the results.”

One thing to listen out for if the Steelbacks do win matches in the Friends Life t20, it is the rendition by the team of their version of the Cobblers supporters’ song The Fields Of Green.

“We sing that song after every win, and it is great to get up there and sing it,” said Crook.

“It is a brilliant feeling, and it is something we have been lucky enough to do a lot this year.

“Hopefully in the T20s and for the remainder of the season we will be singing the song many more times.”