Northamptonshire enter a potentially pivotal week in their season with progress in the Vitality Blast and Specsavers County Championship on the line.
Frustrated by the rain at both Leicester and Worcester last week, Northants sit two points outside the top four in the North Group of the Blast. Six matches remain, with home ties against Lancashire and Leicestershire coming up.
The County Championship then returns against Worcestershire on Sunday at Wantage Road with Northants just 13 points behind the top three in Division Two with four games to go. It’s set to be a crucial round of matches with all teams playing.
But the immediate task is to climb the table in the T20 Blast. Washouts have prevented David Ripley’s side from making a run towards the qualifying places – but they remain firmly in the hunt for the quarter-finals and their form in the field has impressed the head coach.
“The bowling I’ve been particularly pleased with,” said Ripley. “We’ve only had one off day with the ball and sadly that was when we’d batted well against Derbyshire.
“But we’ve generally been pretty good. Josh Cobb’s decision making as captain has been astute and he’s used his own off-spin at the right times.
“Faheem Ashraf has also added an edge to our attack. His yorkers have been searingly accurate, right on the boot of some batsman and he’s showed good pace too.”
Blessing Muzarabani has returned to fitness after a stress fracture of the back to provide another high-pace option.
“Blessing played in the second team at Derby, bowled his four overs and hasn’t shown any ill-effects,” said Ripley. “It’ll be great to have another body in the mix and he’s the guy we hoped would try to fill Richard Gleeson’s shoes – but the guys in possession have done very well so far.”
Despite only having two wins on the board, Ripley feels his side have shown better form than that bare statistic suggests.
“It’s similar to how we were in the Championship back in May,” said Ripley. “We’re playing better cricket than how it looks in the table and that’s encouraging.
“We’re in the mix and it’s very tight and I just hope we’re not regretting a couple of games earlier on when we probably should have won.
“It was a big week last week to make progress from the foot of the table and the cricket we did manage was pretty good so I’m hopeful we can continue that upward trend.”