Northamptonshire’s Alex Wakely has backed the county’s two overseas players for the Vitality Blast to become “superstars” this summer.

Faheem Ashraf, the Pakistan fast bowler, and South Africa all-rounder Dwaine Pretorius are with Northants for the whole of the T20 Blast group stage and Wakely says they have already made a great impression at Wantage Road.

“We started our T20 planning back in November and we didn’t know too much about them,” said Wakely. “Thankfully we’ve been lucky in that they’ve come in and fitted in straight away really well.”

Both Ashraf and Pretorius played a key part in the county’s opening Blast win of the season, against Warwickshire, with their skills with the ball crucial in defending a modest total.

But the way the pair have settled in the dressing room has most pleased Wakely.

“They’re really down to earth guys and have really bought into the type of cricket we’re trying to play,” he said.

“We haven’t seen them at their full best just yet, but they could be superstars and win two or three games on their own.” 

Wakely praised the “effortless” ball-striking of Pretorius and the awkward bounce he generates.

“His delivers from nearly seven foot with his arm,” he said.

“He’s not express pace but its plenty sharp enough. We’ll be looking to try and get guys to hit him to the bigger boundaries – and that’s the type of smarter cricket we’re trying to do a bit more of this season.”

With three points on the board from four matches, Northants have made a steady start to their campaign as they bid for a return to the knockout stage of the Blast for the first time since 2016. The county have a light week with only a home match with Derbyshire on Friday.

It provides Wakely and his fellow batsmen a chance to hone their skills after a lean start. By contrast, their effort in the field has shown a huge improvement on last season.

“If you look at what happened last year, we batted quite well and regularly put up competitive scores but couldn’t restrict teams,” said Wakely.

“But this year we’ve got a much more athletic feel in the side – guys have been diving around in the field and we look like a professional outfit again.

“Unfortunately we’ve been losing wickets in the Powerplay and the stat is something like if you lose three wickets in the first six overs, you lose 70 percent of matches, so that’s where we can improve.”

Chasing scores was always Northants’ preferred route to victory but after slipping up in the second innings in both forms of white-ball cricket in the past two season, it’s forced a rethink.

“If you look at our team now, I think we’re more suited to posting a score,” said Wakely.

“We’d like to get runs on the board, get the crowd behind us and put pressure on the chase – it’s not easy to run down a good total in front of a big crowd at Wantage Road.”

The Steelbacks’ next home game is Friday the 2nd of August against Derbyshire. Save by buying tickets online in advance!