Last eight qualification is 'right in our hands' says confident coach Ripley

Steelbacks head coach David RipleySteelbacks head coach David Ripley
Steelbacks head coach David Ripley
David Ripley is full of confidence the stuttering Steelbacks will qualify for the quarter-finals of the Vitality T20 Blast.

It has been a bad few days for Northants, who have lost successive games at the hands of Gloucestershire and Glamorgan, having previously won four on the spin.

They have slipped from being clear at the top of the Central Group to second, and only above third-placed Birmingham Bears on run-rate.

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The top two from the three groups all qualify for the last eight, as well as the two best third-place finishers, and Ripley believes one more win will see his team into the knockout stages, with two sealing a home quarter-final tie.

The Steelbacks play their final home game of the group stages tonight (Tuesday, 6.30pm) when they take on bottom-of-the-table Worcestershire Rapids, and the head coach is keen to get the job done ahead of their two final matches on the road, at Somerset and Birmingham.

A win over Worcester would see the Steelbacks to the brink of qualification, and Ripley said: "We are in a good position still, and there is no doubt that at the start of the competition if somebody had said 'this is where you will be after seven games' , then we would have taken that.

"We played well against Worcester in our first game, and I still believe one win from three will get us through, and two wins from three could easily give us a home tie as well.

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"It is right in our hands and I am looking forward to seeing us give a bit of a response to the last two performances."

Northants were handsome nine-wicket victors over Worcester in the first game they played in the competition last month, with Paul Stirling's 80 not out seeing them home after the bowlers had restricted the home side to 124 for seven.

The Rapids have struggled to get their game going this season, winning just once, but Ripley is wary of the quality of a side that has reached the T20 Final in each of the past two seasons, winning it in 2018 and finishing runners-up last summer.

"Worcester are a good side, and I have been waiting for them to click into gear because of the record they have had over the past two years," said the County's head coach.

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"They have got an overseas player in Hamish Rutherford, and not all the teams have gone for that, and they still have (Riki) Wessels at the top and they are very dangerous players.

"If we get early wickets against them that is a big coup when you play Worcester, because the danger sits there, and hopefully we can then contain the other guys, and back ourselves to get any score they get.

"They are certainly a side who can beat anybody on their day, but I still feel we have a high number of match winners on our team, with bat and ball."