The tenth edition of the world’s original domestic Twenty20 tournament gets underway tomorrow, with defending champions Leicestershire taking on Nottinghamshire at Grace Road in front of the Sky Sports cameras, and Kent taking on Sussex at Canterbury – a match that was moved because of flooding at Tunbridge Wells.
The Friends Life t20 may have less of the money, less of the star names, and less of the Bollywood A-listers than its more lucrative Indian cousin – although X-Factor 2005 runner-up Andy Abraham will provide part of tomorrow evening’s entertainment at Grace Road – but it is also shorter, hopefully less scandal-ridden and therefore more about cricket and less about glitz and glamour as a result.
Following an unsuccessful experiment with 16 group games during the past two years, the competition has reverted to its original format, with three groups of six teams playing each other twice, before the quarter-finals take place, bizarrely over a fortnight later, on 24th and 25th July, with Finals Day a month later at Cardiff on 25th August.
North Group, Leicestershire v Nottinghamshire at Grace Road (1640 GMT start)
The Foxes have not named their squad yet, but they will be without key player Will Jefferson, who has a back injury, and off-spinner Jigar Naik. Ned Eckersley will take over behind the stumps from the retired Paul Nixon, while Abdul Razzaq will join Ramnaresh Sarwan to complete the Foxes’ overseas line-up.
Possible starting XI: Josh Cobb, Ramnaresh Sarwan, Ned Eckersley, Greg Smith, Abdul Razzaq, Kadeer Ali, Wayne White, Preston Mommsen, Claude Henderson, Nathan Buck, Matthew Hoggard.
Meanwhile, Nottinghamshire coach Mick Newell has named what he terms his “strongest team” for their short trip south, with England internationals Alex Hales and Samit Patel in the starting eleven. He said, “We'll lose Samit during the One-Day series and Alex will play for England in the Twenty20 international at Trent Bridge. That will provide opportunities for the likes of Ben Phillips, Luke Fletcher and Graeme White who are on the fringes at the moment.” The Outlaws do, of course, have two Twenty20 champions in their midst, with James Taylor and Harry Gurney both having moved north to their more prosperous neighbours over the winter.
Nottinghamshire XI: Alex Hales, Michael Lumb, Riki Wessels, Samit Patel, James Taylor, Adam Voges, Chris Read, Steven Mullaney, Darren Pattinson, Harry Gurney, Andy Carter.
Weather Forecast: The match will start and end in glorious sunshine according to the forecast, with temperatures reaching as high as 15 degrees Celsius.
South Group, Kent v Sussex at Canterbury (1800 GMT start)
Kent are the dark horses of a historically strong south group, and have bolstered their previously youthful squad with a smattering of experienced hands. Brendan Nash will be the county’s sole overseas player, but former Pakistani all-rounder Azhar Mahmood is a local player in name only and returns from his stint in the IPL. The likes of Matt Coles, Sam Billings and Adam Ball could provide a winning foil to the experience of Darren Stevens, Rob Key and Geraint Jones.
Possible starting XI: Sam Billings, Rob Key, Azhar Mahmood, Brendan Nash, Darren Stevens, Sam Northeast, Geraint Jones, Matt Coles, James Tredwell, Adam Ball, Mark Davies.
Sussex have recruited Rusty Theron to partner Scott Styris, and boast the much-improved Chris Nash at the top of the order, with former England internationals Luke Wright and Michael Yardy taking their places in the middle-order. Monty Panesar will lead a traditionally frugal spin attack that could include Will Beer, while Amjad Khan, Rusty Theron and James Anyon make up a more than useful seam attack.
Possible starting XI: Chris Nash, Ed Joyce, Luke Wright, Joe Gatting, Scott Styris, Michael Yardy, Ben Brown, Rusty Theron, Amjad Khan, James Anyon, Monty Panesar.
Weather Forecast: After a cloudy start and overnight rain, which should clear by midday, the match should finish under clear skies, with highs of around 13 degrees Celsius.
County News In Brief:
Gloucestershire have named Hamish Marshall as their captain in this season’s Friends Life t20. He replaces regular skipper Alex Gidman, who has returned to the ranks to help him “freshen up” ahead of the rest of the season.
Leicestershire have added Scotland all-rounder Preston Mommsen to their Twenty20 squad. He has already represented the Foxes in the County Championship this season.
18 year-old fast-bowler Tom Helm has signed a professional deal with Middlesex, which will keep him at Lord’s until the end of 2014. He will join Middlesex on 1st July after he has finished his A-Levels.
Sussex have completed their overseas line-up for this year’s Friends Life t20 by signing South African medium-pacer Rusty Theron. He joins New Zealander Scott Styris.
© Cricket World 2012
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