Steelbacks heading to last chance saloon in Vitality Blast

David Ripley's side are under pressure to perform against Derbyshire this evening (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)
David Ripley's side are under pressure to perform against Derbyshire this evening (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)

It’s not quite all or nothing time for Northants, but it will be if they lose both of this week’s games in the Vitality Blast.

The Steelbacks have lost all four of their North Group games so far, suffering defeats to Leicestershire Foxes, Notts Outlaws, Lancashire Lightning and Worcestershire Rapids.

It has been a hugely disappointing start to the competition, with opposition sides racking up runs for fun.

And Northants are now left needing to win eight of their remaining 10 group games to secure a top-four spot that would earn a quarter-final place.

It is a gargantuan task that begins with a televised match against the group’s other winless side, Derbyshire Falcons, at the County Ground this evening (start time 6.30pm).

But the County will not only need to battle against the Falcons but their own low confidence if they are to claim precious points in pursuit of a place in the knockout stages.

“We’ve obviously tried since the first defeat to turn it around and now, mentally, we’ve got to give ourselves a nudge,” said Northants head coach David Ripley, who takes his side to Birmingham Bears tomorrow night.

“Things are pretty low at the moment and you don’t play your best cricket like that.

“We need something to fire us and some match-winners to step forward.

“We’ve had a look at the intensity of our practice.”

Northants have often started the T20 competition slowly but the manner of these four defeats - conceding 692 runs from 389 deliveries - suggests this season they are performing at a lower level than the previous three years.

And Ripley is certainly worried about his side’s overall attitude.

“My main concern is our little malaise in the field and lack of execution with the ball,” said Ripley.

“When you’re going for the scores we’ve conceded, it’s tough - especially on some of the smaller grounds - but that’s where we’ve got to make the most improvement, how we get in and out of our overs, our skills and varieties that we use.

“We’re well off the pace at the moment.

“We’ve got to think about where slower balls can come in and where our spin can perhaps influence the game more.”

Derbyshire have been beaten in all four of their T20 fixtures this season but are kept off the bottom of the table due to the Steelbacks’ inferior run rate.

And now Northants need to kick-start their campaign by adding to the Falcons’ struggles this week.

“Ultimately, we’ve got to recognise that what we’re doing isn’t good enough and then have the desire to change and improve that,” Ripley said, issuing a rallying call to his underperforming players.

“I’m sure that’s there and we’ve just got to work hard and get guys sticking their hands up to produce a few really important moments for us.”