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It is a clash of two teams on opposite ends of the spectrum at the moment. Worcestershire Rapids has won three out of its first three matches while the Northamptonshire Steelbacks have lost their first three matches. It is a bit of role reversal from last season as Worcestershire was the team circling the bottom of the table and Northamptonshire was the side near the top of the table. It is still early days but it looks like Worcestershire may be on its way to script an astonishing turnaround.
The Rapids were quietly confident before the start of this season after making some good acquisitions but only the most optimistic amongst the would have thought they would win their first three games. This start now allows Worcestershire to lead from the front and have some breathing space in the race for qualification.
Leading the way for the team has been Martin Guptill with 135 runs and two fifties to his name. Surprisingly, Guptill has been getting his runs at an almost sedate strike rate of 117.39 so far so we are inclined to imagine that his best is still ahead of him.
Providing excellent support to Guptill have been Joe Clark, Callum Ferguson, and Ross Whiteley to provide the fireworks. All these players are combining to form a pretty solid batting lineup for Worcestershire that has been scoring 180-200 runs with ease so far.
Joe Clark has not got a big score to his name so far but we like his position at the top of the order. He is scoring at a strike rate of close to 200 and taking the pressure of the other batsmen around him.
The bowling was put under pressure during the last match against Birmingham and it came out looking pretty okay. Brown and Barnard have 5 wickets to their name to be the early leaders in the wicket-taking tally but it is the economy rates of D’Oliveira, Barnard, and Mitchell, that have been most impressive.
Northamptonshire has been struggling with its batting and so we could see Worcestershire’s bowlers have another good day in this match.
Martin Guptill, Joe Clarke, TM Head, Daryl Mitchell, Brett D Oliveira, Ben Cox, Ross Whiteley, Ed Barnard, Luke Wood, Patrick Brown, Dillon Pennington.
A massive score in the first match of the Vitality Blast 2018 was not enough for Northamptonshire to win its match and that sort of threw the county off its game. An average batting performance and a poor one in its most recent game shows that things are going from bad to worse in the Northamptonshire camp.
The form of Richard Levi was a positive in the last game that Northamptonshire can build on. He hit six boundaries and a six in his 21 ball stay at the crease. If he is able to sustain that kind of form for a little bit longer then it takes the game away from the opposition.
Ben Duckett has reached close to 200 runs for the competition already and so these two players at the top will be the main threat to Worcestershire’s bowling. The players that follow these two have been a bit of a concern for the team management.
Cobb has one fifty to his name, as does Wakely, but there is almost no one else there to speak of. If two out of this top-4 get going then the Rapids will find themselves pushed to the brink but if Northamptonshire loses a couple of early wickets then the match is almost done for.
The bowling for Northamptonshire has unimpressive. Prasanna has been economical but has struggled to take wickets while both Kleinveldt and Sanderson have gone for over 11.00 runs an over. This means that the skipper has to depend on his part-timers to get some over in. This ploy could be very dangerous against an in-form batting lineup like Worcestershire.
Northamptonshire has the players in its squad to be able to beat Worcestershire but will need a special effort from at least a couple of them.
Richard Levi, Ben Duckett, Josh Cobb, Alex Wakely, Ricardo Vasconcelos, Steven Crook, S Prasanna, Graeme White, Rory Kleinveldt, Brett Hutton, Ben Sanderson.
The team winning the toss is likely to field first
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Some rain has been forecast for match day in Worcester and so we could be looking at some interruptions. Hopefully, the dry weather will prevail for enough time to allow a full match. The pitch in Worcester has been good for batting but does tend to offer a little purchase to the spinners.
A score of around 170 should be considered par.
Worcestershire has lost to Northamptonshire in four out of the last five matches played between the two teams. In current form, though, it is difficult to look past Worcestershire. The presence of a strong batting lineup and a disciplined bowling attack with home advantage thrown in should add to up to a continuation of Worcestershire’s winning streak.
Back Worcestershire to win.