Ripley challenges in-form Steelbacks to back up double weekend success by beating Bears

Northants Steelbacks head coach David RipleyNorthants Steelbacks head coach David Ripley
Northants Steelbacks head coach David Ripley
David Ripley is delighted with how the Steelbacks have started their Vitality T20 Blast campaign - but has now told his players they have to 'keep backing it up'.

Northants have claimed five points from a possible six, with wins over Worcestershire Rapids and Somerset following on from the rained-off opener at Gloucestershire.

It has left the Steelbacks top of the Central Group pile, but there is no time for Josh Cobb's team to sit back and admire what they have done so far as they face another two matches in the space of the next 72 hours.

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First up is a County Ground date with second-placed Birmingham Bears on Tuesday night (6.30pm start), and that is swiftly followed by an Edgbaston date with Glamorgan, that will be shown live on Sky Sports on Thursday night (6.35pm).

"Twenty20 cricket is how it is, and you have to just keep backing it up," said Ripley, who has named an unchanged 15-man squad for the date with the Bears.

"The games are thick and fast in this first block of five, and we have a pretty good record against Warwickshire in recent times, so we will take a little bit from that.

"But we are top of the league and we want people to keep chasing us, and it is Warwickshire's job to come knock us over on Tuesday."

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It was a fantastic weekend for the Steelbacks, who thrashed Worcestershire by nine wickets on Saturday and then produced an excellent team performance to edge out a powerful Somerset side by nine runs on Sunday.

"We couldn't have asked for much more, and it's the performances that are pleasing as well," said Ripley.

"Then there is the Leicestershire games as well, and everybody knows how well we played in those pre-season games (Steelbacks won two practice matches against the Foxes last month).

"They were warm-up games but we wanted to take them very seriously as it was our only opportunity for a practice game and we really played well.

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"So add that day into the mix, we have had three really excellent performances, so it is exciting."

Birmingham arrive at the County Ground having secured their first win of the tournament on Sunday, seeing off Glamorgan by six wickets in Cardiff.

They possess a strong line-up that includes former Steelbacks pace man Olly Stone, current England Test opener Dom Sibley, and former England men Tim Bresnan and Ian Bell.

They also have New Zealand spinner Jeetan Patel in their ranks, a bowler who has 235 T20 wickets to his name.

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Bears coach Jim Troughton was pleased with his team's performance at the weekend, but is expecting a tough clash at the Steelbacks.

“I was pretty happy to come away from home with two points and that brings confidence," he said.

"But Northants look like the team to beat as they’re a pretty strong side who bat deep with experience, so it’ll be a good game.”

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