So, after overpowering a disinterested Yorkshire Vikings side at a packed County Ground last Friday night, Wednesday’s nail-biting last-ball defeat at Edgbaston by the Birmingham Bears means it’s a must win on Friday night to guarantee a place in the quarter-finals.
Weather permitting, I fully expect the Steelbacks to do exactly that against a weakened Durham Dynamos side that cant qualify. They will concentrate on Saturday’s bizarrely scheduled Royal London Cup 50 over game on the same venue and pitch instead.
The only risk factor is just how high up the country the forecast rain gets on Friday, and Leicester at home to Notts is the most likely to go ahead of the three critical games for the final last-eight spot.
But if Lancashire are washed out at Worcestershire and there is also a non-result at Northampton, we will go through.
On Wednesday night the Steelbacks chose to bowl first for the seventh successive time in T20 against the Bears at Edgbaston, resulting in that dramatic one-run defeat.
A total of 155 for five was a good effort on a pitch offering some seam early on with danger man Brendon McCullum out for 26 and Chopra top scoring for 52.
If the Northants bowlers had dropped their level a pinch on a pitch not giving up boundaries, the match chance was gone as the defending champions’ strength is their bowling.
The Steelbacks batsmen, alas, did drop their level early on, and the big hitters were out for cheap dismissals taking on the long boundary to sit 85 for five.
But Alex Wakely is Mr Fixit and was again the man to repair the innings with those ones and twos on a pitch not conceding boundaries for a good 50 that was not quite enough alongside more Rory Kleinveldt mayhem that nearly stole it.
Rory had to score an impossible metaphorical 70-yard field goal off the final play to win it, but what a finish!
Northants have done their homework on this guy, and he is not as bargain bucket as he looks.
On the Championship, Northants rolled over at the County Ground this week for a disappointing defeat to Derbyshire in just seven sessions.
The visitors are more of a red ball team these days and were soon on top of Northants on a green tinged pitch that the locals had been hoping for earlier in the year.
Alex Hughes dominated the Derbyshire innings of 361 with his maiden unbeaten first-class century of 111 not out, and helped the tail add 150 and four batting points.
A rather irritable Kleinveldt dominated the wickets with four for 99, it was good to see young Maurice Chambers get a bowl (2-40) and new face Ben Sanderson, who has a professional deal until the end of the year, took two for 49 on his debut.
Northants’ reply was pathetic and Cheltenham all over again as they were bowled out for 116 in just 38.1 overs.
Three of the team were bowled not offering a shot, and three more got themselves out with wafts to fielders, unable to deal with the late swing and extra pace from England hopeful Mark Footitt who impressed with an excellent five for 41.
But not to get to the follow on was even more pathetic.
Once players drop their level its game over in the championship, and it’s almost as if they want to stay fresh for the white-ball cricket where the contracts are.
It was better second time around with Ben Duckett again the man with his first Wantage Road century and another young English Northants player in high demand.
There were certainly no problems with driving straight here!
The kid can play a clock face of shots and is not afraid to do so.
Josh Cobb and Adam Rossington gave it a go in the 316 all out to take it into the third day.
Kleinveldt’s two ‘slog and swipe’ dismissals were lazy from a guy looking totally worn out with the four-day game.
Footitt ran up his 50th first-class wicket of the season in July for the second straight year, edging ahead of David Willey for The Ashes lefty pick.
Derbyshire knocked them off after lunch for 23 points and Rossington conceded 23 more extras in that 76 for three to go with his 50 sundries in the first innings.
Admittedly a lot of that was filth down the leg side, but it is maybe time to encourage Duckett to sign any new contract offered by giving him the gloves for a bit to compare.
On conclusion, the suspicion is it’s almost as if Rips wanted a green pitch to get the game over in two days to leave time to prepare for Twenty20, rather than exploit best seam attack in the division to get a result.
Derbyshire are not the sort of team we lose to, only our second defeat to them at Wantage Road in 23 matches.