VIEW FROM THE BLUES: Steelbacks looking good as T20 halfway stage approaches

SO LONG - Shahid Afridi signed off for the Steelbacks with a match-winning performance at Yorkshire Vikings
SO LONG - Shahid Afridi signed off for the Steelbacks with a match-winning performance at Yorkshire Vikings

If you tear a Canadian $20 note in two, each piece is still legally worth $10.

If you rip county cricket in half, there is no doubt the Twenty20 bit is worth far more than the other bit, with the LV= Championship Division Two hardly legal tender these days!

Because of that imbalance, the smaller clubs have thrown most of their resources at the slog.

So where are the Steelbacks in the Twenty20 this year?

Bearing in mind Durham are top of the group after losing more games than we have, you could say its going okay.

For me, it’s going better than it looks.

Those recent two wins followed two close defeats that could have gone our way if catches were taken, and the Steelbacks are stronger in wet games.

I think the batsmen have performed well and are averaging around 8.5 an over after six games, all rather impressive and the highest it’s ever been for the Steelbacks in the competition at this stage.

That is a good sign for when the pitches eventually dry up.

Our main problem is the lack of a quality Twenty20 bowler that can take four for 28, and also slow the scoring with a tight over or two on the better pitches.

Once the pitch seams, it moves the match towards the Steelbacks and is much more of a leveller and is what our attack is set up for.

If it’s dry and warm, you know we can go for 200 without that quality slow bowler, and now we have momentum we need to replace Shahid Afridi - although I understand there are no plans to do that yet.

After the first win of the competition at home to Derbyshire last Thursday, it was almost two in a row at Grace Road last Friday evening for yet another farcical ‘no refunds’, rain-affected encounter.

An 11-overs-a-side game was agreed on a soggy Leicestershire outfield in wretched light.

It’s as if Phillip Hughes never died, and Craig Kieswetter never got hit by that ball that has ended his career.

You only need look at the frantic collision between Moises Enriques and Rory Burns in bright sunshine at Arundel last week as hard proof that something far worse is coming down the line if we are not careful.

If it’s not facing a 90mph ball in bad light, or fielding collisions, it’s careering into those gas lamps and flame throwers on the boundary edge that will get them.

At Grace Road, one more over would have seen Northants home on the D/L, of course, and I’m sure if Leicestershire had batted first at home with the same score they would have been allowed those few balls and the victory.

But that’s the way it is with Twenty20 - it really is nonsense when they play in the wet for the home crowd.

A total of 98 for three was a very good score by the Steelbacks in the conditions, with Ben Duckett scoring 39 eclectic runs.

But the Foxes were never going to see the ball in the dark in reply, and so the innings should never have been started, a mirror of the Steelbacks versus Durham match in May when the home side also came out on top in dire conditions batting first.

But 10 overs bowled is considered a game in this format, and so ‘no refunds’ the revised target, with Leicestershire dragged off in the gloom at 25 for two just 11 balls shy of what would have been seen as a match, when Kevin O’Brien was bowled by an 85mph Muhammed Azharullah fizzer.

You could say we were unlucky, but you should say it was poor umpiring as no other format would have seen any play in this game.

It really is time for reserve days to protect the players and fans alike, so the lads get conditions they can express their skills in.

So on to Headingley last Sunday afternoon for more rain and gloom and a similar D/L story, this time the Steelbacks coming out on top after putting Yorkshire in on a damp outfield under smoky cloud for a 12-over game, the home side including a certain James Middlebrook.

I reckon he would have played for free - and it was an absolutely disgraceful decision to let him leave Northants when we currently have no front-line spinner.

Considering the top heavy and terrifying power of the Yorkshire batting that line-up, 82 for seven from the 12 was stuff of dreams, Afridi saying goodbye with an excellent three for 15.

The Pakistan legend put more punters on the gate at away grounds than Wantage Road it seems.

The pitch and outfield was wet and so no surprise they didn’t get near the 100-plus runs they needed.

But the Steelbacks set about the score with gusto in improving light with Richard Levi relishing the task. His quickfire 35 with eight boundaries and the ‘big over’ setting up Duckett (31no) and Afridi to bring the lads home for the eigh-wicket win that puts is right back in the mix, especially if we win tonight against Lancashire at the County Ground as summer finally shows up.

I do feel for the Yorkshire as they probably would have hit 200 in the sunshine, but Northants fans will take what they can get this year.