Head coach Ripley demands more of the same from table-topping Steelbacks

Head coach David Ripley has challenged his in-form Steelbacks to make sure they start the second half of their Vitality Blast T20 campaign as well as they did the first.
Adam Rossington, who has missed the past two games, is set to return to the Steelbacks team on FridayAdam Rossington, who has missed the past two games, is set to return to the Steelbacks team on Friday
Adam Rossington, who has missed the past two games, is set to return to the Steelbacks team on Friday

Unbeaten Northants have won four matches on the spin to open up a two point gap over second-placed Gloucestershire, who are Friday's visitors to the County Ground (start 2.30pm).

Ripley is understandably delighted with how his team has performed so far, claiming nine points out of a possible 10, with the County and Gloucester having shared the points for their rained off clash in Bristol.

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But he has also warned his players against any sort of complacency, and has called on them to show the quality and ruthless streak that saw them thrash Worcestershire Rapids by nine wickets in their opening match at New Road.

Northants head coach David RipleyNorthants head coach David Ripley
Northants head coach David Ripley

It was a performance that set the tone for the matches to follow, and Ripley wants more of the same.

"We want to start this block of five games as well as we did the last block of five," said the head coach.

"In the game we played at Worcester we were absolutely outstanding from the off, and it is important we try and start this block of five matches in the same way.

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"Having those four wins under our belts does help, and everybody is going to take being top of the league at the halfway stage."

But Ripley is well aware that in sport, as well as things went in the first five games, then can go equally badly in the next five, and he has warned his players they can't let up.

"It is important we keep pushing now, because this is a game of momentum, but it can work both ways," he said.

"We have to be a bit guarded about that, because although we have been playing good cricket and it's going well, if you suffer a couple of back-to-back losses then the world can look a different place.

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"We are just trying to focus on doing everything we did well in the games beforehand, and just trying our best to repeat that."

Friday's showdown is a battle between the country's two form teams, with Gloucestershire travelling to the County Ground off the back of three straight wins of their own, having lost to Glamorgan in their opener.

Ripley is a big admirer of Richard Dawson's side, who reached the last eight last season when current Steelbacks bowling coach, Chris Liddle, was in their team.

Liddle will certainly have been able to give Ripley plenty of inside information on many of Gloucester's key men, but the head coach knows it is going to be a serious challenge.

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"Gloucestershire have a good recent record, they were quarter-finalists last year and are a good team, with good players," he said.

"People will look at their squad and say 'where are their stars?'. But they are always a very good team and are very competitive.

"I think they are a good benchmark for lots of teams in that they really get the best out of themselves and are competitive in all formats.

"It will certainly be no surprise to me if the finish nearer the top than the bottom of our group that's for sure.

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"So it is a big game to start us back, that's for sure, and we are looking forward to it."

Aside from this week's Covid-19 'curveball' that has meant four Steelbacks players are unavailable for Friday's game, there was good news for Ripley in that Adam Rossington is set to return.

The wicket-keeper batsman has missed the past two matches after injuring a finger on his way to 52 in the group win over Somerset, but he is expected to come back into the team.

"Adam brings power and quality," said the head coach.

"He has been a proven match winner in this format, and you want as many of them on your teamsheet as you can."

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His replacement in the past two fixtures, Ricardo Vasconcelos, is expected to retain his place in the team.

Missing from the squad that travelled to Edgbaston for the win over Glamorgan are Brandon Glover, Saif Zaib and Blessing Muzarabani, and coming into the mix along with the fit-again Rossington are Brett Hutton and Luke Procter.

Northants squad v Gloucestershire: Cobb, Berg, Buck, Hutton, Keogh, Levi, Procter, Rossington, Sanderson, Sole, Stirling, Vasconcelos, Wakely, G White