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Preview: Northants Steelbacks vs Yorkshire Vikings

— 23 June 2022

Darren Gough says he is “over the moon” with Yorkshire’s position at the halfway stage of the county summer as his side prepare for tonight’s Vitality Blast crunch clash with Northamptonshire at Wantage Road (6.30pm).

Silverware remains realistic in both the Blast and the LV= Insurance County Championship, despite interim managing director of cricket Gough and coach Ottis Gibson being dealt a challenging hand regarding injury and unavailability this summer – especially in the seam bowling department.

Matthew Fisher (back) is a long-term absentee, Ben Coad hasn’t played this season having sustained a groin injury in pre-season, while Dom Leech (foot) was the latest to be struck down ahead of last night’s Blast win at Worcester, where an inexperienced attack stood up impressively.

Yorkshire (13 points) head to Northampton sat fifth in the North Group table, one point outside the top four with a game in hand on Northants and Derby, who have 14 in third and fourth. The Vikings’ net run-rate is importantly the best in the entire group.

In the Championship, Yorkshire sit fourth in Division One with one win, one defeat and five draws from their seven games. They are 31 points behind leaders Surrey, their next opponents at Scarborough (July 11-14).

“With the injuries we’ve had, we’ve almost had to pick a different team every game,” said the former England fast bowler.

“The batting has been outstanding and the bowling has been more workmanlike. But that’s down to us not having our strongest line-up.

“The two Derby games were heart-breaking. Rain has done us both times. Had those two games been different, we’d be all but qualified.

“I guess that’s the beauty of the Blast. Everyone is beating everyone – in both groups. Surrey are the only team who have taken it by storm, and they have such depth.

“Under the circumstances, I’m over the moon. With everything that’s been happening week after week, I’m well satisfied with how we’re going.

“We are still in the hunt for both competitions at this moment in time, which is more than satisfactory as far as I’m concerned.”

Gough continued: “In the bowling department, we’ve just had a lack of freshness. We’ve still not seen Coad yet, Fisher for just one game, Leech hasn’t played a Championship game.

“Dom (Leech) has looked really good in the couple of Blast games he’s played. But he’s got a foot problem now.

“We are down to the bare bones, let’s face it.

“Thankfully Jordan Thompson keeps tearing away. At some point, we’d like to rest Tommo, but we just can’t.”

Yorkshire will be boosted by the return of Blast captain David Willey for tonight’s clash with his home county, who he will rejoin at the end of the season.

Willey has been in fine form for Yorkshire and England since returning from the IPL last month.

In five Blast games, he has scored 178 runs with two half-centuries added to five wickets, before returning eight wickets in three one-day internationals against the Netherlands over the last week.

It is clearly a blow to Yorkshire that he will be leaving, as is the same scenario with Somerset-bound Tom Kohler-Cadmore, who led the chase of 151 at Worcestershire last night with an unbeaten 46.

“They have a huge part to play for us,” said Gough.

“They are two fantastic players, and they are desperate to go out on a high by winning a trophy.”

Unfortunately, should Yorkshire qualify from the North Group in the Blast, they may have to do without overseas opening batter Finn Allen.

This week, he has been called up for international commitments in Ireland, Scotland and the Netherlands, which runs from July 10 to August 6.

The Blast quarter-finals run from July 6-9 before Finals Day on July 10.

“Finn has been called up by New Zealand,” added Gough. “So we will probably be without him after the group stages should we get through.”

Yorkshire are in buoyant mood after the thumping five-wicket win with 5.2 overs to spare against bottom side Worcestershire last night.

They face a Northants side who have won six of 12 games so far and sit third in the North. But they have lost their last two against Derbyshire and Birmingham on Tuesday and Wednesday.

The Steelbacks boast the competition’s third leading run-scorer in powerful Australian and ex-Northern Superchargers opener Chris Lynn, whose haul of 443 runs in nine games includes two hundreds – both at Wantage Road.

In four of six home games so far, they have posted scores above 210, including against Birmingham on Wednesday when it was chased down.

It is safe to assume we will be treated to another high-scoring contest this evening.

Willey’s fellow England ODI duo Dawid Malan and Adil Rashid will both be absent at Wantage Road.

Malan is managing a long-standing Achilles issue, while Rashid has been granted leave by country and county to make the pilgrimage to Mecca.

The leg-spinner will also miss the forthcoming white ball matches between England and India.

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