Pre-Match Pack: Northants Steelbacks
Derbyshire name an unchanged 14-man squad for the visit of Northants Steelbacks to The 3aaa County Ground in the Vitality Blast on Wednesday 8 August; 7pm start.
The Falcons have the chance to make it six wins from the last seven matches when the Steelbacks arrive in Derby, and with four matches left the play, Derbyshire remain in the hunt for a quarter-final place.
Gary Wilson’s men sit fifth on ten points, with games against the Steelbacks, Worcestershire Rapids, Leicestershire Foxes and Durham Jets still to play.
Calum MacLeod remains the Club’s leading run-scorer, with 39 in the win over Birmingham Bears taking his tally to 319, at an average of 31.90 and a top score of 104.
His fine century came in the reverse fixture at Wantage Road in front of the Sky Sports Cricket cameras, off just 61 balls, with 13 fours and four sixes.
Billy Godleman (194) and Wayne Madsen (288) have both scored over 150 runs in the campaign, whilst all-rounder Matt Critchley and Alex Hughes offer options with both bat and ball.
Lockie Ferguson has been the Falcons’ most economical bowler and has claimed 14 wickets at an average of 17.42, conceding just 6.59 runs per over. He is set to spearhead the bowling attack, alongside Wahab Riaz, Hardus Viljoen and Ravi Rampaul.
Riaz remains available for selection in the matches against Northants Steelbacks and Worcestershire Rapids, before being replaced by New Zealand top-order batsman Henry Nicholls.
Young seamer Alfie Gleadall has been ruled out for the remainder of the 2018 season with a lower back stress fracture. Luis Reece remains absent through a metatarsal injury suffered at the end of May, whilst fast bowlers Will Davis and James Taylor all miss out through injuries.
26. Ben Slater
1. Billy Godleman
20. Matt Critchley
6. Calum MacLeod
77. Wayne Madsen
18. Alex Hughes
14. Gary Wilson
65. Anuj Dal
21. Matt McKiernan
47. Wahab Riaz
7. Hardus Viljoen
69. Lockie Ferguson
50. Safyaan Sharif
41. Ravi Rampaul
The Steelbacks, who were champions in 2016, currently sit bottom of the North Group having lost nine and tied one of their ten matches.
Josh Cobb hit 103 off 62 balls in the Steelbacks’ last fixture, their 17-run defeat to the Bears, despite hitting 170-7.
All-rounder Cobb has 263 runs in his ten matches, at an average of 26 and a strike rate of 142. He is likely to be joined by captain Alex Wakely in the middle-order, alongside all-rounder Steven Crook and leg-spinning all-rounder Seekkuge Prasanna.
Ben Sanderson leads an experienced and highly useful pace attack, which also includes the returning Richard Gleeson, Rory Kleinveldt and Nathan Buck.
Northants Squad: To be announced.
Fast bowler Hardus Viljoen believes the Derbyshire bowling attack is one of the best in the competition, and he hopes the Falcons can peak at the right time in the race for a quarter-final place.
He said: “It was a complete bowling performance [on Friday], a perfect effort by all the bowlers and a combined one that gave me the opportunity to put guys under pressure as well.
“If you believe you can bowl teams out you can win games. We had no other choice, we had to attack and take wickets because that was going to win us the game and everybody stuck to their own skills.
“I don’t think there’s many teams in the competition that’s got so many guys who can bowl at 90mph.”
The Falcons are back in contention of reaching a quarter-final place after losing their first four Blast games and Viljoen stressed the importance of continued belief in the squad.
With four games left to play and Derbyshire currently fifth in the North Group on ten points, the South Africa quick wants the Falcons to peak at the right time.
The 29-year-old added: “As a side you need to keep on believing. T20 is a funny game, I’ve seen teams that have lost six in a row and then win the next eight to get in the play-offs. It’s one of those games where you need to peak at the right time.
“If you peak too early, and you don’t get it right at the back end you fall behind when teams are at their best. It can also take time to find the right balance and we found that balance when we started winning games and we stuck to the formulae.
“It’s about sticking to our guns and taking each game as it comes . We don’t want to look too far ahead, if we do the little things right the big things will look after themselves.”
Vitality Blast is back! Derbyshire Falcons are back at home on Friday 3 August against Birmingham Bears. Purchase your tickets in advance and save from £4. Buy online or call 01332 388 101.