Head Coach David Ripley says that focus has to shift quickly to the Specsavers County Championship after Friday’s Vitality Blast win over Leicestershire Foxes.

Twenty20 has been a good format for the Steelbacks this decade, with a pair of Vitality Blast titles and a further appearance in Finals Day all fresh in the memory. However the 2018 form was far from title-winning, with the win over the Foxes just the second in the competition.

Despite that, crowds at the County Ground remained healthy, with thousands of supporters getting behind the team. This has not gone unnoticed by Ripley, who both said that he shared their disappointment and thanked them for their continued backing in challenging circumstances.

“We’ve appreciated the support over the past few weeks,” he said. “I feel flat for them, to be honest. Over the past few years we’ve had some big crowds and won some tight games under the lights and this year we’ve not been able to do it for them. I’m disappointed that we haven’t lived up to what we’ve done in the past, but hopefully we can regroup and come back fighting.”

The Steelbacks’ campaign was hindered before it began with three key players absent at the start, namely Richard Gleeson, Rob Keogh and Adam Rossington. Gleeson would return midway through the 14 matches, but Keogh and Rossington did not see any action at all.

These injuries, combined with the knock to confidence of not defending a then-record total on home turf against Leicestershire Foxes in Round 1, was a setback, according to Ripley.

“Adam Rossington’s injury happening with one ball to go in the practice game, and given what he could bring to the top of the order, with his keeping and his experience, was untimely,” he said. 

“Having won two Championship games coming into the comp I thought we were in good shape.

“With Rob Keogh the week before as well as Richard Gleeson not going to make the first game, that knocked us. We have a small squad and having three good players was going to hurt us. Then the first game comes and it’s a game we should win 19 times out of 20 and we blew it. That hit us as well, but having that game won only to find that you’ve lost it was tough for us.”

Attention turns back to the Specsavers County Championship until the end of September, and with Middlesex visiting the County Ground between Sunday and Wednesday any hangover from the Vitality Blast will have to be shaken off quickly.

But Ripley says that this is a good thing as the players look to get back to the form that saw them see off both Gloucestershire and Glamorgan in style back in June.

“It’s a help for us,” he added. “We’ve got to dust ourselves off, get something to play for, get stuck in and finish the season strongly.

“The last thing we want is to dribble on. We’ve dribbled on a bit in this competition; we’ve talked the talk but there’s been that subconscious element that you’re losing games and can’t stop the momentum.

“So we’ve got to get on the front foot in the Championship game on Sunday. It’s a good opportunity for us to put a marker down for the last six games of the season, and the lads are up for doing that.”