2017 T20 Blast Preview

By on July 4, 2017

T20 Blast 2017 – Quick-fire Preview

 

South Group

Surrey

On paper, I firmly believe Surrey to possess the strongest squad in the whole tournament. The prospect of lining up for their opening match at the batting haven that is Chelmsford, with a top order of Roy, Finch, Pietersen and Sangakarra will certainly have Essex bowlers reaching for a premature tweak in their hamstring any day now, but the talent doesn’t stop there. Foakes, Stoneman, Borthwick, Dernbach and the Curran brothers bolster the ranks and the alternative overseas option of Moises Henriques could compliment this batting heavy unit perfectly. They may have fallen just short in the recent RLODC final, but I am convinced that the shorter format gives Surrey an even greater chance to fulfil their potential.

Prediction: Winners

Hampshire

With a wealth of experience at the top of the order and a dynamic bowling attack to match, Hampshire are another side with the potential to go all the way. The bonus inclusions of Kolpak duo of Kyle Abbott and Rilee Roussow give them excellent options in terms of not taking up valuable overseas spots, who will be occupied by George Bailey and Shahid Afridi. What’s more, this tournament may well prove to be the coming of age for two young England prospects in Reece Topley and Mason Crane, especially when you consider the latter will be under the guidance of a certain Mr Afridi who I’ve no doubt will be able to teach him a thing or two over the next couple of months.

Prediction: Semi Finalists

Middlesex

There’s a lot to like about this Middlesex team and I think they could be slightly overlooked in general as there is no doubt there is an array of talent spread amongst their ranks. Compton, McCullum, Malan and Morgan gives their batting a solid feel and Finn and Southee make up what is arguably the best seam attack in the tournament. My only worry for Middlesex would be the lack of a top quality spinner, which could leave them looking rather exposed if they encounter a turning track.

Prediction: Quarter Finalists

Sussex Sharks

With what appears to be the largest squad in the tournament, Sussex Sharks undoubtedly have a fantastic pool of talent from which to choose their starting eleven. Opening with the forgotten man of English cricket,Luke Wright and the intriguing Stiaan Van Zyl, there is real opportunity to go big in the initial power-play. Further, if they can somehow manage to keep both Chris Jordan and Tymal Mills fit and playing for the duration, then they have the potential to go far and can feasibly win any match. The concern has to be the lack of a consistent “scoreboard ticker” in the middle overs although skipper Ross Taylor may lend himself to this position.

Prediction: Quarter Finalists

 

 

Essex Eagles

Essex will be looking to repeat their trick of reaching the knockout stages of this competition, having done so in each of the last five successive seasons. All eyes will undoubtedly be on Pakistan paceman Mohammad Amir who has the ability to rip through a batting order before you have the chance to say “no ball” (sorry Mohammad), but I worry that this bowling attack may lack bite if Amir fails to fire. The performances of all-rounders Ravi Bopara and Ryan ten Doeschate will also have a heavy weighting, but as a team the Eagles will need to remedy their Chelmsford blues of last year if they are to make an impression on the latter stages once more.

Prediction: Group Stage exit

Kent Spitfires

Another side that display a solid home grown batting line-up consisting of Denly, Northeast and Bell-Drummond, Kent will again harbour aspirations of making the knockout stages, despite having only been able to do this once in the last 5 attempts. I will be most interested to see how they opt to utilise the hugely exciting Sam Billings, who has spent the last year honing his T20 talents in leagues across the world. Adam Milne is a useful overseas addition who can become the focal point of their bowling attack, but an out of touch James Tredwell leading their spin options is an area that opposing teams will look to exploit.

Prediction: Group Stage exit

Gloucestershire

If it was feasible to write a two-word preview for any team in this competition, then Gloucestershire’s would unquestionably paint the most accurate picture. Michael Klinger. Perhaps I am being a little harsh in this assessment, but it is difficult to overstate just how important this man is to the success of the county. His figures during his tenure as a Gloucestershire player have been nothing short of remarkable and the skipper will need to lead from the front if Gloucestershire are to make a mark. Other superstars do not immediately spring from the page, but Bancroft and Howell certainly appear to have the ability to kick on in this format.

Prediction: Group Stage exit

Somerset

Somerset will be looking to erase memories of a hugely disappointing campaign last time out that yielded just 7 points (0 on the road), and become a far more competitive outfit. Bringing big hitting Kiwi Corey Anderson into the setup seems a shrewd piece of business, and if the Overton brothers can continue developing, Somerset may just sneak into knockout contention once again after a three year absence.

Prediction: Group Stage exit

Glamorgan

In what looks like a devastatingly difficult South group this year, it is difficult to make a case for the boys from across the border being able to gate-crash the party. I worry for Glamorgan, particularly if Rudolph and Ingram do not make quick runs, as to where the momentum comes from elsewhere in the batting line-up. How Marchant de Lange performs in Englis Welsh conditions will be an interesting watch though and I would be delighted to see the local contingent prove me wrong.

Prediction: Wooden Spoon (South)

 

North Group

Nottinghamshire Outlaws

The current RLODC holders will be looking to repeat the feat in the shorter format and have the tools at their disposal to do so. Lumb and Hales scream solidity at the top of the order, Christian and Wessels will look to clear the rope and Ball, Gurney and Fletcher should be potent enough to cause considerable damage. Throw in a sprinkling of Samit Patel and you have the makings of a serious side. My only query would be the decision to let Imran Tahir go and replace him with Ish Sodhi. Nevertheless, do not be surprised if we see a repeat of the RLODC final, albeit with a different result.

Prediction: Semi Finalists

Yorkshire Vikings

As has been the case for what seems like forever, Yorkshire enter the tournament with a roster that would leave most counties full of envy. Though I’m not wholly sold on their overseas additions (Shaun Marsh aside), the strength in depth of their home grown players is quite astounding and more than makes up for this. The difficult bit for Yorkshire may be actually reaching finals day and giving their chances of glory a shot in the arm with the return of their English national team contingent who are usually released to play in the final round of matches.

Prediction: Runners Up

Worcestershire Rapids

After a promising effort in the RLODC losing out to Surrey in the semi-finals, Worcestershire fans will be quietly confident of making significant inroads into another short format tournament. Losing exciting prospect Tom Kohler-Cadmore to Yorkshire is obviously a blow, however there is enough talent remaining in the ranks, with a plethora of all-rounders who will be aiming to fire Worcestershire on their way to the latter stages.

Prediction: Quarter Finalists

Northamptonshire Steelbacks

Reigning champions Northamptonshire Steelbacks will be hoping to put in another hugely respectable performance having appeared in back to back finals in 2015 and 2016. Having assembled a squad that is tailor made for this tournament boasting the likes of Levi, Duckett, Kleinveldt and of course, last year’s hero Josh Cobb, it is difficult to view Northamptonshire as anything but a serious player once more. This time however, I think a hat trick of final appearances may be a bridge too far and if Shamsi is unable to deliver the X-Factor by taking consistent wickets with the ball, the Steelbacks may struggle to get to finals day.

Prediction: Quarter Finalists

 

 

Lancashire Lightning

For me, Lancashire were probably the most difficult team in the tournament to assess. It seems natural that they should be competing at the very top table of this competition having cleared the group stages in 10 out of 14 editions of the tournament, however I find their squad this year to be lacking in star quality. For me, a lot rests on Jos Buttler’s shoulders. If he plays regularly I could be made to look very stupid here, but if he doesn’t, I struggle to see where the X-Factor comes from. There seems to be a lot of players who are solid, but none (other than Jos) that are able blitz 75 from 40 which is becoming more and more of a requirement as the game advances. The spin duo of Parry and Kerrigan is useful enough though and maybe low scoring affairs will be the order of the day at Old Trafford.

Prediction: Group Stage exit

Birmingham Bears

A dismal effort in the RLODC and a worryingly poor start to the County Championship season has left Birmingham Bears fans less than hopeful of seeing their side appear at finals day on their home turf in September, let alone repeat the heroics of 2014. The signings of Colin de Grandhomme and Grant Elliot may give the side much needed impetus across both disciplines, and it is a given that Jeetan Patel will of course take a bucket load of wickets across the season, however the loss of Laurie Evans and Varun Chopra has left the side looking a little tame at the top of the order where runs may be at a premium.

Prediction: Group Stage exit

Leicestershire Foxes

The most successful county in T20 Blast history, Leicestershire Foxes, will be hoping overseas signing Luke Ronchi can rekindle some of his Champions Trophy form and propel them to some huge scores at Grace Road over the summer. It’s difficult to see the Foxes bowling attack defending modest totals so heavy scoring at the top of the order from the hard hitting Cosgrove, Ackerman, Delport and Ronchi is essential if they are to have any chance of success.

Prediction: Group Stage exit

Derbyshire Scorpions Phantoms Falcons

A largely inexperienced squad will no doubt look at last year’s winners Northamptonshire for inspiration in the hope that their performance is greater than the sum of their parts. The acquisition of the hugely talented and ultra-competitive Imran Tahir may go some way to ensuring that they aren’t the whipping boys of the tournament, however the obvious worry is that the Falcons may struggle when faced with the prospect of chasing down any seriously daunting totals. The fact that this issue has not been addressed, coupled with their traditionally poor showing in this competition, leaves the Falcons fans with little optimism for the season ahead.

Prediction: Group Stage exit

Durham Jets

Starting the season with a 4 point deduction due to financial issues last year, and with the departure of key short format players Stoneman and Borthwick, it will quite frankly take a minor miracle to see Durham reach the dizzy heights that they achieved in this tournament last year, where they lost out at the final hurdle. Nevertheless, this could be an ideal platform to fire up the conveyor belt of young talent once again and give emerging players a regular spot to carve out a reputation on which to build on next season.

Prediction: Wooden Spoon (North)

 

 

Predicted Table :

 

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About Jack Downes

Aspiring cricket writer interested in anything T20 related