The Steelbacks have made a fantastic start to their Friends Life t20 campaign this year, winning five games from six, which puts them top of the Friends Life t20 Midlands/Wales/West division and gives them a strong chance of returning to the quarter-final stages.
The first game of the Steelbacks’ campaign saw them host Gloucestershire in front of the Sky cameras. The weather played a major part in the game as rain caused the match to be shortened to 12 overs a side. But this shortened game made for some very entertaining action, as the Steelbacks batted first and thanks to some fast scoring from Coetzer, White and Wakely the team made an excellent total of 124 for 4. Tight bowling from the Steelbacks prevented Gloucestershire scoring any easy runs and then Graeme White got the ball and took over as he got four wickets in nine balls, which left the Gloucestershire innings in tatters. Gloucestershire finished their innings on 83 for 9, losing by 41 runs, with Graham White winning man of the match as he recorded bowling figures of 3 overs, 4 wickets for 14 runs.
In their second game, the Steelbacks hosted the Warwickshire Bears here at a packed County Ground. With Northants batting first, Kyle Coetzer led the way with a fine 71 from 61 balls, as he was supported by cameos from Levi, White and Wakely as the Steelbacks scored 161 for 2. Despite resistance from Ateeq Javid who scored 41 from 34 balls, Warwickshire never looked like chasing down the Steelbacks total. The main man in the Steelbacks’ bowling attack was Muhammad Azhar Ullah who recorded figures of 4 for 25, as Warwickshire finished 134 for 8 losing by 27 runs.
The Steelbacks third game saw them travel for the first time in the competition, as they faced pre-tournament favourites Somerset at Taunton. David Willey starred as he made his highest ever t20 score as he fell just short of his fifty going for 47, as the Steelbacks made 152 for 7. Despite some good bowling by the Steelbacks and in particular Willey who had figures of 2 for 19, an Alviro Peterson inspired Somerset just came out victors as they beat the Steelbacks total with 7 balls to go, to win by 7 wickets.
Next up the Steelbacks hosted Glamorgan who went into the game unbeaten and top of the group, in what was by far the tightest game of the year. A strong start by the Glamorgan openers in the powerplay, meant they had scored 57 before the Steelbacks got their first wicket. Zimbabwe international Murray Goodwin was the star with the bat for Glamorgan as he made a vital 47 from 31 balls to help Glamorgan to 153 for 7. Azhar Ullah was the star with the ball during this game as he put in a man of the match performance taking 4 wickets for only 14 runs. After a slow start to the innings, a 92 run partnership between Cameron White who scored 68 from 52 and Alex Wakely who scored 52 from 39, put the team on the edge of victory. After Cameron White was run out in the final over with the team 1 run behind, it was down to Steven Crook to hit the game winning four on the last ball, to give the Steelbacks a brilliant 7 wicket victory.
In their fifth game, the Steelbacks travelled to Cheltenham to face Gloucestershire on what proved to be a brilliant batting pitch. The Steelbacks batted first and scored the second highest team total in the Friends Life t20 this season as they scored 206 for 3. This innings was inspired by South African Richard Levi who scored the highest total in the Friends Life t20 this year with a brilliant 110 not out from 62 balls which included 19 boundaries, 4 of which were sixes. Gloucestershire battled bravely but after David Willey got three early wickets, they never really looked like threatening the Steelbacks’ mammoth total, eventually losing by 17 runs.
The Steelbacks’ latest game saw them host Somerset in front of the Sky cameras. In what was another thrilling game, the Steelbacks had a terrible start losing Levi and White in the first over for only two runs. The hero of the game was all-rounder Steven Crook who made an excellent half-century as he was out for 63 from 36 balls, including four sixes, as the Steelbacks made 150 for 8. The home fans would have been very nervous after Somerset made a fast start to their innings, scoring 38 runs before losing Marcus Trescothick, which was quickly followed by two more wickets. From then on Somerset could never get a strong partnership going and lost all momentum, after David Willey made a brilliant run out with a direct hit. After a tense last few overs, Somerset ended up finishing on 140 for 8, losing by 10 runs. Azhar Ullah was once again the star with the ball as he had figures of 3 for 16, which makes him the top wicket taker in the competition, with 15 wickets so far.
With only 4 games remaining the Steelbacks will need everyone’s support as they try to not only make the quarter-finals but secure a home quarter-final. Next up for the Steelbacks is Warwickshire at Edgbaston on Saturday. The next home game for the team will be Worcestershire Royals on Tuesday 30th July, so come along!