After six weeks of county championship (red ball) cricket, it’s time for the counties to turn their attentions from four days to four hours of cricket to get a result.
It’s white ball time, the skillsets are quite different, some of the players are different but one thing that will be no different is the level of excitement involved.
The T20 Blast involves some of the world’s greatest exponents of white ball cricket. These include:
Kieron Pollard (Surrey) – The West Indian all-rounder who has made a record 592 appearances in T20 competitions worldwide.
Sunil Narine (Surrey) – Another West Indian superstar. The ‘mystery spinner’ has 438 wickets in 405 games.
Chris Lynn (Northants) – Powerhouse opening batter, who hits the ball a long way and very often. The Australian has a staggering record of 341 sixes in just 220 short-form games.
Tim David (Lancashire) – A quickfire batter whose scoring strike-rates in T20 cricket is an incredible 163.07.
Rashid Khan (Sussex) – Almost single-handedly knocked out Yorkshire at Durham in last year’s quarter-final. The Afghanistan spinner is a world star who underlined that with a Player of the Match award in the IPL play-offs and already has more than 450 wickets in T20 cricket, aged just 23.
Carlos Brathwaite (Warwickshire) – “Remember the name”… you may recall Ian Bishop’s famous commentary when Brathwaite hammered Ben Stokes for four successive sixes to win the 2016 T20 World Cup final against England. Say no more. This man is box office.
Dwayne Bravo (Worcestershire) – Massively experienced former West Indies all-rounder, who leads the way as a wicket-taker in T20 cricket with a sensational 587.
In addition to these players, who are available throughout the tournament, some other major stars of T20 cricket are available for part of the Blast. These include former England Test captain Joe Root (Yorkshire), Liam Livingstone (Lancashire), who has been wowing audiences in the Indian Premier League. Others include Moeen Ali, Chris Jordan, Shadab Khan, Haris Rauf, Shaheen Afridi and Mohammad Rizwan.
The teams are the same 18 counties who play in the county championship and RL50 competitions. The only changes are the Warwickshire play as the Birmingham Bears in white ball cricket, which includes the T20 Blast.
Also, many counties adopt a ‘nickname’ for the Blast, e.g. the current champions are the Kent Spitfires.
North Group (2021 finishing position shown in brackets)
Derbyshire Falcons (8th in group)
Durham (7th in group)
Lancashire Lightning (quarter-finals)
Leicestershire Foxes (6th in group)
Northamptonshire Steelbacks (9th in group)
Notts Outlaws (quarter-finals)
Birmingham Bears (quarter-finals)
Worcestershire Rapids (5th in group)
Yorkshire Vikings (quarter-finals)
South Group (2021 finishing position shown in brackets)
Essex Eagles (7th in group)
Glamorgan (9th in group)
Gloucestershire (6th in group)
Hampshire Hawks (semi-final)
Kent Spitfires (winners)
Middlesex (8th in group)
Surrey (5th in group)
Sussex Sharks (semi-final)
Who will win it?
Last year’s winners Kent Spitfires are, unusually, quite cold in the market for a repeat success. They’re 10/1 chances with bet365.
Nottinghamshire are general favourites for the competition and are usually a safe bet to win a good percentage of their games. They have been regulars at finals day over the years and have once again assembled a hugely competitive squad. They’re as short as 6/1 with William Hill but if you fancy them then Betfair’s 37/5 is more tasty.
It’s no surprise that Surrey, who probably have the strongest all-round red and white ball squads on paper for 2022, are up there towards the head of the market. They are generally priced at 8/1, while Lancashire and Somerset are a best-priced 9s with Coral.
Hampshire can’t be ruled out and look like representing some value at a best-priced 14/1 with Betfred.
Like last year, the Southern Group looks stronger across the board but, despite never having won it before, Yorkshire look a very strong team this time. They’ve had a well documented change of coaching staff during the winter.
With Joe Root, Harry Brook, Jordan Thompson, Adil Rashid, Haris Rauf, Shadab Khan, Dawid Malan, Finn Allen, Dom Bess and Tom Kohler-Cadmore able to play some or all of the tournament, they have tremendous firepower. Therefore, it looks worth taking the 12/1 on offer with several firms and I’d be backing them each-way, to half the odds to make the final. It could be their year…
It should be a great competition again and whoever you wager with, I wish you well.