Worcestershire skipper Vikram Solanki returns from England duty tonight to find his team badly in need of his match-winning capabilities.
The county's chances of qualifying for the quarterfinals of this year's Twenty20 Cup were already starting to look slim when Solanki's 92 proved insufficient to beat Gloucestershire in a dramatic finale at Bristol on Thursday night.
But the debacle 24 hours later when, without Solanki, Worcestershire were humiliated at home by Northamptonshire has made things even tougher.
Director of cricket Steve Rhodes has made the fair point that cup-holders Somerset only won four of their eight qualifying matches last season and still made it through to the last eight in third place.
But that did not happen after the morale-shattering experience of losing the first three. And Worcestershire can only hope that the return of Solanki and his England one-day colleague Kabir Ali for this evening's return at Northampton can turn the tide.
"It's all about confidence," said Solanki. "And a couple of wins can all turn it round again.
"I was pretty pleased with the way we played at Bristol, when the only thing I was disappointed with was the result, and I know Bumpy [Rhodes] was pleased with the way the guys played at Cardiff on the Tuesday night."
Having missed two of the three previous Twenty20 Cups due to international commitments, Solanki has not played much of this form of cricket. But, after spending last week as a motorway yoyo, having been drafted in by England on Tuesday, sent back on Thursday, then invited back again the next day to play against Sri Lanka on Saturday, he now faces five matches in nine days.
"I missed the Twenty20 because of the one-day series three years ago and again last year, which makes me relatively new to this game," said Solanki. "But I did play six times two years ago when we made the quarter-finals. I was very pleased with the way I batted at Bristol.
"That was my first game captaining a team at Twenty20 too. And, while a lot depends on the surface you're playing on and the situation of the game, I learnt a lot about things in that respect too."
Rhodes has already admitted that being under different leadership in their first three games - vice captain Gareth Batty led the team out at Cardiff and again at New Road on Friday night - has been a hindrance. And it can only be hoped that Solanki's return can provide a bit of stability tonight. ..SUPL: