Skipper Joe Leach is backing Worcestershire Rapids to overcome his absence from tomorrow’s Royal London One-Day Cup semi-final with Kent Spitfires at Blackfinch New Road.
Leach has been ruled out for the remainder of the campaign with a stress fracture of the back suffered during the crucial North Group win over Warwickshire at Edgbaston.
But the 26-year-old says not relying on one or two individuals for their success and the strength in depth of the Rapids batting line-up can stand them in good stead.
Leach said: “Of course, I’m gutted to be out for the rest of the season and, in the immediate future, the semi-final.
“I’ve been lucky in terms of avoiding serious injuries since becoming established in the side although that doesn’t make missing out on Sunday any easier.
“But I’ve got complete faith in the lads to show what they are capable of, whoever we have to face, and to top the North Group two years running is a tremendous effort.
“Now we’ve got to make sure we play with that same kind of intensity we’ve shown throughout the competition in these last two knockout games (semi-final and possible final).
“The good thing is we don’t rely on one or two people. Different people have put their hands up and different stages of the competition to win games.
“That is the beauty of having the strength in depth that we have. You never feel that you are out of games.
“If you look at the Lancashire match we were 90-6 but we were still confident that we could get over the line with the people out in the middle and in the shed.
“That’s probably a key point of difference for us over other sides. We bat all the way down.
“We have Ed Barnard batting at number eight. He wouldn’t bat at number eight in any other team. It’s really good for the guys confidence that they know they’ve got power coming in behind them.”
Leach admits the Rapids have made a conscious effort during the past two years to adopt a different approach to white ball cricket
He said: “There has been a visible shift in the way we have tried to play our cricket.
“We pinpointed that we wanted to be a lot more positive and, certainly with our batting depth, we’ve tried to really impose ourselves on teams and I think that has probably stood us in good stead.
“The batting group has really embraced that style of play. It obviously suits them but they have really taken that by the scruff of the net and taken the game to opposition bowlers which is what you really need to do now in modern cricket.
“I think last year would have given the group of players a lot of belief, winning the group the way we did, getting the home semi-final.
“It really did give the group a lot of confidence that the style of cricket we were playing was the right way for us.
“It is just a case of building on that experience over a period of time and finding the right formula and right roles for people.
“We are starting to get towards that even though I don’t think we have been quite as clinical this year as we were last year at winning games
“But, although we haven’t won games as convincingly as last year, on the other hand it does show that next stage of the development of the group.
“Probably a concern around the side was ‘what are we like in close games’ and we have learnt this year to be on the right end of some of those tight games which is pleasing.”
Worcestershire were well beaten by Surrey in last summer’s semi-final but Leach says making amends for that setback will not be a massive motivational factor.
He said: “I suppose it was a real obvious blemish on our 50 over campaign last year.
“That can happen in a one-off game. I don’t know whether the lads will be thinking too much about that, to be honest.
“It has been a different campaign. Even though we are top of the group, it has been a different campaign in many ways.
“But the lads will want to show that intensity and positive intent that’s been shown throughout the group stage.”
Not that Leach believes finishing as group winners will have much bearing on Sunday.
He said: “Of course, it is nice to see that consistency we’ve shown in this format. We’ve won 12 out of the last 16 group games, six out of eight the last two years.
“We are in a really good place in 50 over cricket.
“But I think last year the two finalists finished third in their respective groups – so topping the group doesn’t really much.
“It’s nice we’ve got the opportunity to play at New Road and that is nice for the members and everyone involved in Worcestershire cricket.
“But we will just be focused on trying to put in a performance that justifies our position as North Group winners.”