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After finishing second best in 2015 and then going on to win the T20 Blast, Northamptonshire's love affair with the T20 suffered a bad phase as they finished 6th on the points table. The Northants' have arguably been the most consistent team over the years in English circuit and they'll face Leicestershire in their opening game of this year's edition. Leicestershire were the quarter-finalists last year and will like to take it all the way this time around. The two teams are set to lock horns on County Cricket Ground, Northampton on July 4th, 2018 in a quest to garner advantage early in the tournament.
Given the way the Steelbacks performed in the past barring the last year, writing them off will not be a sane thing to do. With the aggression and experience of Richard Levi at the top, containing them can be really difficult for the bowlers, especially on batting friendly surfaces. Another star batsman at their disposal is Ben Duckett who had a forgetful start to English summer, but a terrific hundred in Cardiff might well be the signs of things to come.
Their strike bowler, Richard Gleeson, was out of the Royal London ODI Cup due to an elbow injury and his return will encourage the Northants. He was excellent with his yorkers prior to the injury and with no Azharullah to support him during the death overs, the onus will be completely on him to see them through in testing bowling conditions.
Seekugge Prassana and Rory Kleinveldt are their overseas signings and Prassana could really come in handy if the pitch has even a little bit of assistance for slower bowlers. They've signed Brett Hutton up and his excellent all-around show in the earlier matches will ease some pressure off both their bowling and batting. It was their bowling which faltered last time and the absence of experienced wrist spinner might just hurt them again. Other than that, they have a strong and balanced team which can be very dangerous on their day.
Richard Levi, Ben Duckett, Josh Cobb, Alex Wakely, Steven Crook, Ricardo Vasconcelos, S Prasanna, Rory Kleinveldt, Graeme White, Nathan Buck, Ben Sanderson.
The Foxes named Colin Ackermann the captain for this season following the extension of his contract till 2020. Ackermann is the leading run scorer in County Championship and played a key role to take them to knockouts last year. Alongside him, the batting responsibilities will lie on the shoulders of Cameron Delport, who is known for his heavy-hitting abilities across the globe.
To bolster their spin attack and add depth to their batting, the Foxes have signed up Mohammad Nabi who known for his wily off-spin and big hitting abilities. Mohammad Abbas is their other overseas signing which will bolster their bowling lineup. Abbas was a vital cog for Pakistan when they toured England in test series and having the experience of bowling in English conditions, Abbas' role will be crucial. The Foxes have a strong spin attack with Callum Parkinson expected to bowl alongside Mohammad Nabi. He had a good last season and was an unsung hero in their road to quarterfinals last year.
Leicestershire appears to be a strong and a well-balanced team having options with the ball and batting that goes deep. They toppled Northants' recently in Royal London One Day Cup and their last year's win in T20 Blast should be a morale booster for them. Spinners are likely to play a key role in the upcoming game and if their spinners can deliver as per the expectations, the Foxes will be a tough team to deal with.
C Delport, Neil Dexter, Colin Ackermann, Mark Cosgrove, Mohammad Nabi, Lewis Hill, Tom Wells, Zak Chappell, Ben Raine, Callum Parkinson, Mohammad Abbas.
Teams generally prefer to chase in T20s and we expect nothing different in this match as well
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It's going to be bright and sunny with clouds peeking in between. There will be some assistance for the bowlers and spinners will have a big role to play. A score of around 170 will be a par score here.
Northants' will love to shrug off their recent losses against the Foxes and their power-packed batting lineup will have a role to play. Leicestershire were poor in Royal London ODI Cup but registered a win against Northants. Northants rely heavily on their power-packed batting and the absence of an experienced spinner might just hurt them. The Foxes have a better-balanced squad and with Ackermann and Delport in fine form, we expect them to beat Northamptonshire yet again.