T20 BLAST PREVIEW: International allrounders Dwaine Pretorius and Faheem Ashraf have joined but how well the Steelbacks will deal with the loss of Ben Duckett remains to be seen
Coach: David Ripley
Captain: Josh Cobb
Overseas: Faheem Ashraf (Pakistan), Dwaine Pretorius (South Africa)
Last season: 9th in North Division
Finishing rock bottom of the North Group, Northants' fall from grace was officially confirmed last season, especially given that they had managed three finals-day appearances between 2013 and 2016, and even won the competition twice in that period. Losing 11 games and winning just two, it was a T20 campaign to forget for the Steelbacks.
Dwaine Pretorious will add some much-needed allround quality
Josh Cobb takes on a huge amount of responsibility, not only as his side's premier batsman as evidenced by his 448 runs at 37.33, the most by any Northants player last season in the competition, but also as captain after Alex Wakely stepped down.
With Ben Duckett now at Nottinghamshire, the task of filling that hole is left to Ricardo Vasconcelos, who has impressed in the County Championship this season, but scored just 73 runs from seven innings in the T20 competition last year.
Dwaine Pretorius and Faheem Ashraf have been signed as the overseas players, and they both have some exposure to English conditions despite the former's moderate involvement at the World Cup and the latter's participation in three ODIs and one T20I against England before the 50-over tournament.
A team that has strived to improve their fielding over the years, they should be showing some improvements in this area in comparison to previous seasons. Top order batting could also be a strength given the strengths of Vasconcelos, Cobb and Wakely, who should now be able to better his run tally of 292 from last time with the burden of captaincy no longer with him.
They have well-rounded allrounder options, with Pretorius' three for 25 against Sri Lanka in the World Cup showcasing the very best of his talent.
Ricardo Vasconcelos has been in good form in the County Championship
Spin. Graeme White has been out of action for some of the season and despite his white-ball pedigree yielded 191 runs for just three wickets from the 18 overs he bowled in the competition last year. Rob Keogh is a reliable man with the ball but missed last year’s tournament after snapping a tendon in his finger.
With Sri Lankan legspinner Seekkuge Prasanna, who took nine wickets in the competition last year, not returning for a third season, the gap he has left has effectively not been filled, and that could come back to haunt the Steelbacks if White fails to pick up form.
Strongest XI (with T20 Player Index ratings): Richard Levi (267), Josh Cobb (275), Ricardo Vasconcelos (924), Alex Wakely (366), Adam Rossington (612), Dwaine Pretorius (486), Faheem Ashraf (77), Rob Keogh (827), Brett Hutton (724), Graeme White (645), Nathan Buck (510)
Fixtures: Jul 19 - Durham (a), Jul 24 - Nottinghamshire (a), Jul 26 - Birmingham (h), Jul 28 - Yorkshire (h), Aug 2 - Derbyshire (h), Aug 7 - Durham (h), Aug 9 - Leicestershire (a), Aug 11 - Worcestershire (a), Aug 14 - Lancashire (h), Aug 16 - Leicestershire (h), Aug 23 - Derbyshire (a), Aug 25 - Birmingham (a), Aug 29 - Yorkshire (a), Aug 30 - Worcestershire (h)
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