Saturday, October 24, 2020

Preview: Vitality T20 BLAST IS BACK!

T20 BLAST RETURNS FOR 2018

LazyFanSports provides our very own preview of the Vitality Blast. All 18 counties’ prospects are analysed.

In 2003, the England Cricket Board pioneered the idea of Twenty 20. A new form of the game designed to attract a wider audience, making cricket a sport designed with the consumer, rather than the traditionalist, in mind. Now a critical component of the domestic and international circuits, T20 cricket returns to the UK on 4 July.

North Division

Birmingham Bears

Overseas Players: Colin de Grandhomme (NZ) and Jeetan Patel (NZ)

Runners-up last year to Notts Outlaws, the Bears will be hoping to reach another finals day at their home ground. Ian Bell’s improved County Championship form is encouraging; fans will be hoping he can replicate this in the shortest form of the game. The Bears will also be praying for the fitness of Chris Woakes, an experienced white ball all-rounder. With both overseas players having played for Birmingham last year, the team appear in strong shape to challenge in the knock-out stages of the Blast.

Derbyshire Falcons

Wahab Riaz (P)

Derbyshire made the quarter-finals in the previous edition of the Blast. However, the late withdrawal of Mitchell Santner has left the Falcons in a desperate position prior to the tournament. Although the late addition of Wahab Riaz may look good on paper, but Derbyshire’s fans are bracing themselves for a difficult campaign.

Durham Jets

Overseas: Tom Latham (NZ)

Durham have experienced a torrid two years following the club’s fall into administration. Finishing bottom in 2017, the 2018 campaign looks to be equally as tough. Especially after the departures of Graham Onions and Keaton Jennings to Lancashire along with former captain Paul Coughlin to Notts. Yet to name a captain, the Jets will be looking to cause an upset in the Vitality Blast.

Lancashire Lightening

Overseas: James Faulkner (A) and Joe Mennie (A)

After a very poor two seasons, Lancashire have spent the winter reinforcing their squad. James Faulkner should prove to be an outstanding overseas player, offering experience with the bat and ball. Likewise, Keaton Jennings is an excellent addition for all three formats of the game. The availability of Jos Buttler could be problematic, with England in limited overs action against India. Despite this, the Lightening will hope to improve this season in the Blast.

Leicestershire Foxes

Overseas: Mohammed Abbas (P) and Mohammed Nabi (A)

Paul Nixon’s men will be seeking to revitalise the fortunes of the Foxes, who are England’s most successful T20 club. However, the overseas acquisitions are both new to domestic T20 games in the UK and the squad lacks international experience. This may turn out to be a season of transition for Leicestershire.

Northants Steelbacks

Overseas: Seekugge Prasanna (SL)

Richard Levi remains the Steelbacks’ most dangerous player. The top-order power hitter is a main attraction for T20 crowds across the country. Nevertheless, the team’s atrocious form in both the County Championship and Royal London One-Day Cup does not bode well for the Blast. Financially, they simply cannot compete with the larger counties.

Notts Outlaws

Overseas: Ish Sodhi (NZ)

Notts are a team brimming with talent. As the holders of the competition, they are one of the front-runners to win at Edgbaston in September. Dan Christian will skipper the side, hoping to use his experience in helping young bowlers deal with batsman-friendly conditions at Trent Bridge. Moreover, Alex Hales’ decision to focus on white-ball cricket may aid the club, as he comes into the team in-form and fresh from ODI and T20 success with England. The Outlaws are ready to blast their way to T20 glory again.

Worcestershire Rapids

Overseas: Callum Ferguson (A) and Martin Guptill (NZ)

Any side with Martin Guptill as their overseas player should be treated with utter respect. Moeen Ali’s omission from the England Test side will equally aid the Rapids’ progress in the Blast. However, this could potentially be a season of transition after an incredibly poor 2017 Blast campaign. If Worcestershire reach the quarter-finals, their T20 campaign can be considered a success.

Yorkshire Vikings

Overseas: Kane Williamson (NZ)

Yorkshire appear to have become the most hated club in county cricket. However, their consistent production of national-level quality players epitomises the Vikings’ sound approach to one-day cricket. If available, they have one of the strongest line-ups in the competition. Star names include Willey, Bairstow, Root, Williamson and Plunkett. A likely contender for Finals Day success.

South Division

Essex Eagles

Overseas: Adam Zampa (A), Neil Wagner (NZ) and Peter Siddle (A)

On T20 nights, Chelmsford can be the most atmospheric cricket venue in the UK. Usually a regular in the knock-out stages, last year Essex struggled to balance a title-winning Championship display, reaching the semi-finals of the 50 over competition with the T20 Blast. Conversely, this year Essex can fully focus on the shortest format. Helped by Australian leg-spinner Adam Zampa along with Neil Wagner (July) and Peter Siddle (August), the team look set for a strong campaign. Assistant coach Dimitri Mascarenhas is a T20 expert, having coached the Melbourne Renegades in the Big Bash. Expect an Essex side with a point to prove, they could be the dark horses of this year’s Blast.

Glamorgan

Overseas: Usman Khawaja (A) and Shaun Marsh (A)

A dynamic opening pair of Colin Ingram and Usman Khawaja has the potential to thrill the Welsh crowd in Cardiff. Off the back of an excellent white-ball campaign in 2017, Glamorgan will be desperate to put on another great show. Despite this, the under-par performances which have dominated this season will undoubtedly have impacted team morale. LazyFanSports predicts a mediocre Blast for the Welsh side.

Gloucestershire

Overseas: Andrew Tye (A)

Gloucestershire are traditionally one of the weaker counties. The 2017 Blast can only be described as an abomination and the side have not even appointed a captain for 2018. Andrew Tye offers variations with the ball, yet the team is largely lacking in quality. All eyes will be on James Bracey, a young man in fine Championship form. Expect another tough season for the South-West side.

Hampshire

Overseas: Colin Munro (NZ), Mujeeb Ur (Afg) and Dale Steyn (SA)

Hampshire enter the 2018 Blast full of confidence. With Colin Munro and Dale Steyn as overseas players, they are in an excellent position to excite the Ageas Bowl crowd. Three spinners in Liam Dawson, Mason Crane and 17-year-old Mujeeb Ur Rahman will be hoping for dry wickets. Vince as captain will hope to put a winter of disappointment to bed, focusing on scoring domestic runs in front of the Sky cameras. Hampshire look set for a quarter-final spot, whether they make it to Edgbaston remains to be seen.

Kent Spitfires

Overseas: Adam Milne (NZ), Carlos Brathwaite (WI) and Marcus Stoinis (A)

Kent remain an enigma in County Cricket. Always possessing quality individuals, yet failing to flourish across a season. After signing three excellent overseas players, perhaps this season could be different? Sam Billings, Daniel Bell-Drummond, Joe Denly and Heino Kuhn are a dangerous foursome at the top of the order. Nevertheless, Kent will do well to reach the quarter-finals.

Middlesex

Overseas: Ashton Agar (A), Hilton Cartwright (A) and Dwayne Bravo (WI)

Traditionally, Middlesex have struggled in white-ball competitions. Although the Lords side possess a strong bowling line-up, they lack power-hitting batsmen able to clear the ropes. Steven Finn is an inexperienced captain, which may hurt Middlesex, especially when Eoin Morgan is away on England duty. LazyFanSports predicts another season of disappointment.

Somerset

Overseas: Corey Anderson (NZ)

Taunton is largely viewed as the perfect venue for T20 batting. Images of Chris Gayle clearing the stand will live long in the memory of the west country crowd. It is hoped that Corey Anderson can use his levers to pull off similar feats this summer. The older generation of Peter Trego, Steven Davies and James Hildreth along with newer talent means it will, in all likelihood, be a season of transition in the 2018 Blast.

Surrey

Overseas: Mitchell Marsh (A) and Aaron Finch (A)

Like Yorkshire, Surrey have become a despised club on the county circuit. Known for their financial supremacy, the side will need to perform to back up this huge investment. Two Australian overseas players should give the team plenty of character. Adding to this the vast T20 international experience running through the side (Finch, Roy, Dernbach and Morkel), as well as the raw talent of the Curran brothers, Surrey are leading contenders to win the Blast.

Sussex Sharks

Rashid Khan (Afg)

Jofra Archer has become a T20 globetrotting superstar over the course of the Winter. Sussex will hope to use their mixture of youth and experience to launch a courageous campaign in this year’s competition. Led by the vastly experienced Luke Wright, they are certainly in the top four southern sides. How they fair in the knock-out rounds remains to be seen, yet the express pace of Archer, Mills and Jordan is an enticing prospect at Hove.

LazyFanSports Assessment

Expected quarter-finalists:

North- Birmingham Bears, Lancashire Lightening, Notts Outlaws, Yorshire Vikings.

South- Essex Eagles, Hampshire, Surrey, Sussex Sharks.

Expected Finals Day: Notts Outlaws, Yorkshire Vikings, Surrey, Hampshire.

LazyFanSports Winner Prediction: Notts Outlaws.

With ‘The Hundred,’ the ECB’s new domestic tournament, only two years away, the Blast needs to thrill players and spectators alike. Expect huge sixes, summer holiday crowds and exciting overseas talent. The Vitality T20 is BLAST OFF!

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