The professional Twenty20 league of England and Wales for the year 2018 gets underway on the 4th of July. The competition run by the England cricket board is branded as the Vitality Blast as a result of a new sponsorship deal with the insurance company replacing the NatWest t20 Series held till 2017. The tournament will be contested among 18 first class county teams that have been divided into two groups of 9 named North group and South group. Matches will be played between July and September 2018 at multiple grounds in England. The finals of the tournament will be played at the Edgbaston cricket ground in Birmingham on the 15th of September. Here we look at the tournament preview with less than a week remaining until this T20 extravaganza gets underway.
Nottinghamshire Outlaws are the defending champions of the tournament. They won the cup last year by beating the Birmingham bears by 22 runs in last year’s finale. During the league stage this year each club will play the other teams in their respective groups twice for a total of 16 matches each. A win is worth 2 points while a tie or a no result will be worth 1 point. The top 4 teams from each group will then enter the knockout stage of the competition with the winner of each match moving forward in the competition. The winners of the competition will be crowned as the T20 Champions of the English County circuit. Leicestershire Foxes is the most successful side in the history of the T20 cup which dates back to 2003 winning the coveted trophy thrice in 2004, 2006 and in 2011.
The North division will be contested between Derbyshire Falcons, Durham Jets, Lancashire Lightning, Leicestershire Foxes, Nottinghamshire Outlaws, Northamptonshire Steelbacks, Birmingham Bears, Worcestershire Rapids and Yorkshire Vikings. The South Group consists of the Essex Eagles, Glamorgan, Gloucestershire, Hampshire, Kent Spitfires, Middlesex, Somerset, Surrey, and the Sussex Sharks.
The Birmingham Bears will be captained by ex-New Zealand all-rounder Grant Elliott and they will have Colin De Grandhomme and Jeetan Patel as their Overseas players. They have England stars Ian Bell, Jonathan Trott, Boyd Rankin and Tim Ambrose in the squad. Ireland’s Gary Wilson with Australian legend John Wright as their coach will lead the Derbyshire Falcons. They also have New Zealand’s Mitchell Santner, West Indies’s Ravi Rampaul, South Africa’s Duanne Olivier, Holland’s Safyaan Sharif, Pakistan’s Wahab Riaz, and New Zealand’s Lockie Ferguson joining the team as overseas players. New Zealand Tom Latham with Azar Patel joining as the overseas player will lead the Durham Jets. Paul Coughlin, Nathan Rimmington, James Weighell, and Will Smith are key players in this side who have the Riverside Ground in Chester-le-Street as their home venue. The Essex Eagles led by ex-Netherlands player Ryan ten Doeschate will also have the services of Kiwi left-arm seamer Neil Wagner, and Australia’s Adam Zampa with Anthony McGrath as the head coach and Dimitri Mascarenhas as his assistant.
Glamorgan is one of the strongest sides in the T20 tournament. They are captained by Jaques Rudolph with the player plus coach Robert Croft, Australia’s Shaun Marsh, Colin Ingram, Tom Cullen, and Usman Khawaja in the side. Gloucestershire will be captained by Michael Klinger with Aussie teammate and IPL’s best bowler Andrew Tye being the impact player for them. Ryan Higgins, Benny Howell, Jack Taylor, Chris Liddle and Matthew Taylor are the English players of note. Hampshire captained by James Vince and coached by Craig White have a very strong batting lineup. They will look to put on good batting displays to put pressure on their opposition by posting challenging totals on the board. Players of note are Colin Munro, Liam Dawson, Reece Topley, and Mujeeb Ur Rahman.
Kent Spitfires probably are the in-form side coming into this tournament. They are in the finals of the Royals London One-Day cup and will be captained by England middle-order batsman Sam Billings. Kiwi pace bowler Adam Milne, Carlos Brathwaite and Marcus Stoinis are the overseas players in the side and will contribute to forming one of the strongest sides this season. Imran Qayyum, Calum Haggett, Joe Denly, and Daniel Bell-Drummond are the players to watch out for from England. Lian Livingstone captains Lancashire Lightning that has Australians Joe Mennie and James Faulkner in the side while Leicestershire Foxes led by Clint McKay will have Mohammad Nabi from Afghanistan in their ranks.
Middlesex who has the iconic Lords cricket ground as their home venue will be captained by Dawid Malan and will be coached by Daniel Vettori. They are one of the oldest and most successful teams in the county circuit. Alex Wakely captains the Northamptonshire Steelbacks who also have Rory Kleinveldt in the side as an overseas player, while the Nottinghamshire Outlaws captained by Dan Christian will be coached by well-known cricket coach Peter Moores. The Gareth Batty led Surrey side has called upon Aaron Finch, Mitch Marsh, and Dean Elgar to join the side this year while Somerset led by Jim Allenby has Kiwi all-rounder Corey J Anderson and Australia’s Matt Renshaw. Ross Taylor captains the Sussex Sharks whose best signing for this season might be the acquisition of Afghani teenage sensation Rashid Khan. Worcestershire Rapids captained by Joe Leach have Martin Guptill, Callum Ferguson and Travis Head as their overseas players. Finally, the Yorkshire Vikings side led by Gary Ballance has New Zealand captain Kane Williamson, Cheteshwar Pujara and Tim Bresnan in the side.
The T20 Blast has always produced some great cricket and some closely contested encounters. The county circuit has been the breeding ground for international cricket stars of England while cricketers’ world over always dream of playing at least 1 county season. Hence, the T20 series is expected to produce thrilling encounters, innovative and fearless batsmanship to keep cricket fans entertained for the next 3 months. We at premium cricket will do our analysis and bring you cricket betting tips and predictions to help you with your bets. As the old adage goes, ’ May the best team win!! ’.