Head coach David Ripley was in candid mood after seeing the Steelbacks be overcome by Worcestershire Rapids at the County Ground.
The home total of 187-9 was above par for the clashes between the two teams over the past few years in Northampton, but it was quickly made to look small as Kiwi great Martin Guptill put together one of the best innings in Twenty20 history.
His century in 36 balls was the seventh fastest of all-time anywhere, and the second fastest in English domestic T20 history, and it anchored the Rapids’ effort as they reached the required target with six overs to spare.
“We’ve got to find ways of being more competitive when people are coming hard at us,” Ripley told BBC Radio Northampton, “because that’s the way the competition’s been – Christian, Ackermann, Guptill, Ian Bell – and we’ve got to find a way of being more competitive.”
While the Steelbacks reached a respectable total there was feeling that they never quite got going. Richard Levi hit 39 off 27 balls, Ben Duckett 25 off 17, Alex Wakely 28 off 22 and Steven Crook 33 off just 13, but wickets also fell at crucial times.
“Every time it looked like we were establishing ourselves we lost a wicket,” Ripley said. “That’s T20 cricket; it wasn’t anyone giving their wicket away, but what we did do well was that the guys who came in picked up the baton straight away. Everyone batted at a fair lick but no one got us over the 200 that we’d have needed to have been more competitive. But at half-time I thought we had a game on.”
And whereas the Rapids – who had welcomed England star Moeen Ali back into their side – had tied down the Steelbacks during the powerplay the visitors got to grips with the home attack immediately, finding the gaps in the fielding ring regularly. And with the County Ground outfield as lightning quick as ever more often than not these shots turned into boundaries, too.
“There’s a lot of endeavour but there’s not a lot of margin in T20 cricket and that’s what our bowlers are finding, unfortunately,” Ripley added. “We haven’t found a magic combination. Tonight I thought we had a better balance in attack, but Martin Guptill and Joe Clarke might think differently, and they played very well.
“We could have responded quicker. Once the game is rolling away from us, Alex is juggling and trying to find combinations that can get us a wicket, so it steamrollered away from us. There was some impressive striking but we dropped three catches in eight overs. We’ve got to look at things we can do and we’ve got to take those chances.
“We’ve been on the wrong end. We’ve had some match-winning contributions ourselves, but they haven’t won matches because we’ve been outgunned. It’s been the story of our season. The batters have been competitive, but the bowlers – despite a lot of endeavour – haven’t matched that.
“We’ve struggled to find a formula. I love consistency; people getting to know their roles, growing into their roles and being backed in their roles. That’s easy to back up when you’re winning cricket matches. When you’re not winning cricket matches you’re scrambling for a formula.”