NatWest T20 Blast: Northants all set to try and repeat 'awesome' success
'Anticipation is building for Steelbacks' title defence...'
By Oli Burley - @OliBurley
Last Updated: 16/05/14 10:59am
Last year's Finals Day was the best day of my career so far and probably will be for a little while longer! We were warming up for the final in front of a packed house - the fans were going nuts - when Dave Ripley came up to me and said I was playing. It was an amazing feeling - I was so excited and was desperate to bat but the guys performed so well I didn't have to.
David Willey's innings was awesome but we knew he had that in him. He's so strong that the ball flies over the infield when the fielding restrictions are on; Surrey bowled full so he could just hit through the line. Any player in the country would have taken that performance if they'd been offered it but to take a hat-trick and finish with 4-9? I don't think anyone could have asked for more.
Returning to the Edgbaston changing room brings back all the memories of our celebrations! Coming back now is quite a strange feeling, actually, because it was a lot more quiet! We were in the changing room until about midnight. It was Cameron White's birthday so it was a good evening!
You can't underestimate experience in Twenty20. Richard Levi has plenty of that with South Africa and he's the nicest guy too - if you need someone to speak to he's always there. In the final he and David scored one off the first over yet we still managed to score at 10 an over in the innings. Watching them be that calm and in control has an effect on the players.
There is a family feeling at the club. Everyone gets on well - I think that came across in the celebrations. As a younger player that makes things a lot easier. I wasn't with the squad for the couple of weeks before Finals Day because I was with the Under 19s but when I did get dragged in I felt right at home; everyone made me feel welcome.
The anticipation is building for our title defence but, if anything, we are under less pressure this year after being promoted to division one of the Championship. Playing so many games on Friday night should help bring in the crowds because a lot of people won't have to work the next day, which will be much better for the club. Hopefully we'll get plenty more support after last year's success.
This winter I've been doing a lot of strength work so I can hit straight more often. I like playing sweeps and reverse sweeps so if I can push those out and then hit straight too it will make the bowler think a bit more. Batting 360 is the key - if you can score all around the ground then they can't put fielders everywhere. It's about trying to be clever and hitting it where the fielders aren't.
Twenty20 is a game that is going up and up in the world. I made my debut in the competition when I was 17 in front of 200 people. The following year I remember turning up to a quarter-final and there were 6,000 there to watch us. You can't beat the excitement of playing in front of a big crowd - although, obviously, it was great to win silverware in my first year.
We did so well last year because we had all areas covered in the bowling and we had players who could bat through an innings. It's great to have Richard Levi back but we're going to miss Cameron White and Alex Wakely, our injured captain, massively so it is up to other players to stand up, which will be exciting.
If I could walk out to bat to any tune, I'd probably choose Avicii's 'Wake Me Up' - that was the song that was playing at the finals last year and we sort of made that our team song. I wouldn't want David Murphy to pick me a track - because I simply don't have any idea what he might come up with! I'm not sure what music Dave listens to so I don't know how good it will be.
Ben Duckett was speaking ahead of the NatWest T20 Blast season. Blast off is Friday 16th May. Tickets can be purchased from www.ecb.co.uk/natwestt20blast.
Watch 39 NatWest T20 Blast fixtures, including a Middlesex double header in the first weekend, live on Sky Sports this summer - starting with Friday's opening clash between Nottinghamshire Outlaws and Lancashire Lightning. For full details click here.