Vitality Blast 2023 Form Guide plus Squad by Squad Preview and Player Analysis
Here is the Vitality Blast 2023 Form Guide and Squad and Player Analysis
Captain: Moeen Ali
Overseas players: Glenn Maxwell (Australia, after IPL commitments with RCB), Hasan Ali (Pakistan), Paul Stirling (Ireland, until Maxwell arrives)
Finals Day appearances: 4 (2003, 2014, 2015, 2017)
Titles: 1 (2014)
2022 finish: Quarter-finals
2022 leading runscorer: Adam Hose (557)
2022 leading wicket taker: Jake Lintott (22)
Key winter moves: Three potential match-winners have been signed in Ali, Maxwell and Stirling and the Bears will hope they deliver in spectacular fashion when available. A key departure is last year’s leading runscorer Adam Hose who has joined Worcestershire Rapids but Pakistan seamer Hasan Ali will bring welcome nous to the seam attack.
The big question: Will the big-name recruits help to end the Bears’ fallow period in the Blast? After three Finals Day appearances in four years, the frustration which had dogged the team for most of Blast history has returned of late. Too often they have been hosts but not participants at the Edgbaston Finals Day jamboree.
Wildcard watch: Rob Yates - The 23-year-old first forged his reputation as a solid opening batsman in red ball cricket but has blossomed in the white ball game. He blends orthodox strokeplay with clouting the ball a long way and some strong early Blast knocks could well attract a Hundred gig.
Final thought: Entertainment was high from the Bears last year as they topped 200 in half their games with a go-for-broke batting policy. It often succeeded but was high-risk and imploded spectacularly on occasions – a ten-wicket group stage defeat to Yorkshire and a 104-run quarter-final thrashing by Hampshire. Will the vastly experienced signings allow for a more measured approach?
Overseas players: Suranga Lakmal (Sri Lanka), Haider Ali (Pakistan), Zaman Khan (Pakistan).
Finals Day appearances: 1 (2019)
2022 finish: Quarter-finals
2022 leading runscorer: Shan Masood (547)
2022 leading wicket taker: George Scrimshaw (23)
Key winter moves: The signings of Matt Lamb and Zak Chappell have bolstered both the batting and bowling while 22-year-old Haider Ali is an exciting prospect with the potential to deliver destructive performances at the top of the innings. Young Pakistan international Zaman Khan adds more pace to the line-up having been clocked at 90mph.
The big question: The Falcons soared until they fell to earth spectacularly in the quarter-final at Taunton so can they use that defeat as a motivating factor to go one better this summer? The batting and bowling looks strong but if there is a weakness, it could be in the field where a lack of athleticism might be a problem.
Wildcard watch: Luis Reece - Played in the first year of The Hundred for London Spirit so a strong Blast tournament could result in another contract. At his best, the all-rounder is capable of taking attacks apart and his ability to keep it tight and swing the ball makes him a dangerous opponent.
Final thought: After failing to make an impact in T20 cricket for years, the Falcons have emerged as a force to be reckoned with, reaching the knock-out stages three times in the past six seasons. If Ali fires and Scrimshaw has another big competition, they have a good chance of qualifying from a strong North Group.
Captain: Alex Lees
Overseas players: David Bedingham (South Africa).
Finals Day appearances: 1 (2016)
2022 finish: Eighth (North Group)
2022 leading runscorer: Michael Jones (319)
2022 leading wicket taker: AJ Tye (21)
Key winter moves: Durham have been dealt a blow after their major Blast signing Tristan Stubbs was called up for a South Africa A tour of Sri Lanka ruling him out of contention. The club are close to sealing a like-for-like replacement with experience of worldwide T20 competitions, so the drop-off should not be too drastic. Coach Ryan Campbell used his Netherlands connections to sign all-rounder Bas de Leede and quick Brandon Glover.
The big question: Can head coach Ryan Campbell’s attacking mindset help Durham shake the unwanted tag of serial underperformers. Campbell has already worked wonders in the red-ball format and now faces a challenge to turn around Durham’s T20 form which, outside a run to the 2016 final, has seen them otherwise fail to reach Finals Day.
Wildcard watch: Ollie Robinson – He has been one of the signings of the season so far in the Championship, excelling with the gloves and bat, after a permanent move from Kent. Robinson failed to make an impact when on loan for the Blast last summer, but the 24-year-old is now fully embedded and has the all-round ability and strike-power to give Durham something they have lacked in the past.
Final thought: Alex Lees has inherited the captaincy and has decent talent to make a charge, but a lot will hinge on whether the club are willing to adapt their tactics to match the striking ability of other teams in the competition. Campbell’s cavalier attitude as a player is rubbing off on his squad so far, and any improvement in the T20 format would be welcome by fans.
Captain: Keaton Jennings
Overseas players: Colin de Grandhomme (New Zealand), Daryl Mitchell (New Zealand), Dane Vilas (South Africa).
Finals Day appearances: 9 (2004, 2005, 2007, 2011, 2014, 2015, 2018, 2020, 2022)
Titles: 1 (2015)
2022 finish: Runners-up
2022 leading runscorer: Steven Croft (548)
2022 leading wicket taker: Richard Gleeson (25)
Key winter moves: New Zealand all-round pair Colin de Grandhomme and Daryl Mitchell will provide a mixture of experience, power and skill. They are two of three overseas players in the squad alongside the Red Rose’s South African stalwart Dane Vilas. The signing of 2021 World Cup finalist Mitchell is particularly exciting for Lightning fans.
The big question: Can this year be a case of the perfect 10 for Lancashire? They have reached a joint-record nine Finals Days with Hampshire, the team who beat them in last year’s final. It would be the perfect way to mark a 10th appearance at the Blast showpiece if they were to go on and win a second title this July.
Wildcard watch: Matthew Parkinson - Was a shock non-selection in March's The Hundred draft. Released from the Manchester Originals squad last year and loaned out to Durham last month, all’s not lost for England's fringe leg-spinner who is one of only two bowlers to have taken 100 T20 wickets for Lancashire (Stephen Parry the other) given Hundred teams have one more available spot to fill.
Final thought: Lancashire have an interesting conundrum in the early stages of the Blast. Captain Keaton Jennings (hamstring) is sidelined, and Vilas has deputised in the Championship. But it may be that New Zealanders De Grandhomme and Mitchell are the preferred Blast overseas pair. If so, another captain is needed. Steven Croft and Luke Wells spring to mind.
Captain: Colin Ackermann
Overseas players: Naveen-ul-Haq (Afghanistan), Wiaan Mulder (South Africa)
Finals Day appearances: 5 (2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2011)
Titles: 3 (2004, 2006, 2011)
2022 finish: Sixth (North Group)
2022 leading runscorer: Colin Ackermann (367)
2022 leading wicket taker: Naveen-ul-Haq (24)
Key winter moves: The Foxes have lost all-rounder Ben Mike to Yorkshire but former Nottinghamshire batter Sol Budinger will bring explosive qualities to the power play, while the retention of Naveen-ul-Haq after 50 wickets in two seasons is a coup in itself. New batting coach James Taylor, meanwhile, knows what it takes to win the competition, having been part of the Foxes team that triumphed in 2011.
The big question: Can the Foxes overcome their habit of making stuttering starts and turn a decent, competitive Blast side on paper into one that can mount a proper tilt at the silverware? The Foxes were the dominant side in the early days of T20, taking to the format from the start and lifting the trophy twice in the first four years. Can they reach those heights again?
Wildcard watch: Naveen-ul-Haq - With 50 wickets in two Blast seasons his unorthodox but highly effective bowling, packed with devilishly hard-to-pick slower balls, even in high-pressure situations, has been a huge asset for the Foxes. He has yet to play in The Hundred, having turned down an opportunity last year because of international commitments. If he is available this year, a chance will surely come again.
Final thought: In left-arm spinner Callum Parkinson, leg-spinning all-rounder Rehan Ahmed and prolific wicket-taker Naveen-ul-Haq, the Foxes have three bowlers who would arguably walk into any other Blast side, with the potential for big runs from the likes of Colin Ackermann, Arron Lilley, Wiann Mulder and Rishi Patel. The time to realise their potential as a team is overdue.
Captain: David Willey
Overseas players: Chris Lynn (Australia), Andrew Tye (Australia)
Finals Day appearances: 4 (2009, 2013, 2015, 2016)
Titles: 2 (2013, 2016)
2022 finish: Seventh (North Group)
2022 leading runscorer: Chris Lynn (516)
2022 leading wicket taker: Ben Sanderson (16)
Key winter moves: England white ball all-rounder David Willey returns to his childhood club after seven seasons with Yorkshire. In a controversial move following his early return from the IPL, he was awarded the captaincy just two weeks before the start of the Blast, replacing long-time skipper Josh Cobb. Australian quick Andrew Tye provides extra bowling firepower alongside returning countryman Chris Lynn.
The big question: With Lynn’s explosive hitting up top, the Steelbacks started strongly last year but fell away sharply, ending their Blast campaign with four straight defeats. Can they sustain their challenge this year and go one step further with the addition of Willey and Tye?
Wildcard watch: Saif Zaib - Came of age last season, nailing down a first-team place and earning himself a short-term Hundred deal with Northern Superchargers. While he didn’t play, his call-up was just reward for a consistent Blast campaign (311 runs), and a strong start to the One Day Cup with 136 against Essex. He also adds another bowling option with his slow-left arm deliveries.
Final thought: Northamptonshire have bolstered their squad and in Lynn and Tye, boast the Big Bash’s all-time leading runscorer and second highest wicket-taker. Willey, with 107 England caps and plenty of captaincy experience, now has to galvanise the club after a tough start to the Championship and several injuries.
Captain: Steven Mullaney
Overseas players: Dane Paterson (South Africa), Colin Munro (New Zealand), Shaheen Afridi (Pakistan)
Finals Day appearances: 6 (2006, 2010, 2016, 2017, 2019, 2020)
Titles: 2 (2017, 2020)
2022 finish: Fifth (North Group)
2022 leading runscorer: Ben Duckett (396)
2022 leading wicket taker: Jake Ball (18)
Key winter moves: Overseas signings Colin Munro, the New Zealander who was part of the Trent Rockets side that won The Hundred last season, and Pakistan’s Shaheen Afridi are two of the world’s best players in the format, while domestic signing Olly Stone adds the missing ingredient of express pace to the Outlaws armoury, provided he is fit.
The big question: Will two big-name overseas signings be enough to compensate for the retirement of double Blast-winning skipper Dan Christian and the likely loss of last season’s top run-getter Ben Duckett on Ashes duty with England as the Outlaws seek to bounce back from last season’s rare failure to qualify from the group stages?
Wildcard watch: Tom Moores - Despite keeping wicket for the winning team as Trent Rockets beat Manchester Originals in the final to be crowned The Hundred champions for 2022, he has surprisingly been overlooked for this year’s competition. But he has a solid record in T20 and another good showing this year - fitness permitting - could see him find a role, elsewhere if not with the Rockets.
Final thought: After missing out on a quarter-final place last year for only the second time in 13 seasons, the Outlaws are keen to show they are still the team to beat in the 20-over format and their recruitment of Munro and Afridi is a statement of intent. Much depends, though, on hitting the ground running after a slow start cost them in 2022.
Captain: Brett D’Oliveira
Overseas players: Michael Bracewell (New Zealand), Mitch Santner (New Zealand).
Finals Day appearances: 2 (2018, 2019)
Titles: 1 (2018)
2022 finish: Ninth (North Group)
2022 leading run-scorer: Colin Munro (323)
2022 leading wicket taker: Pat Brown (14)
Key winter moves: Worcestershire are hoping Adam Hose, signed from Warwickshire over the winter, can reproduce the firepower that saw him finish in the top three of run-scorers in last season’s competition – 557 - and the form he showed for Adelaide Strikers in the 2022-2023 Big Bash League.
The big question:Can Worcestershire recapture the form they demonstrated when winning the title in 2018 and then coming so close to retaining the title 12 months later? Since then they have failed to live up to expectations but stability should be provided by Brett D’Oliveira’s appointment as captain as he will be available – unlike Moeen Ali – to lead for the entire tournament.
Wildcard watch: Jack Haynes - On his day he is one of the most talented youngsters in the country and his England Lions call-up this winter will probably be the stepping stone to greater international honours. Has already showed his potential in T20 cricket for the Rapids.
Final thought: There is genuine optimism that the Rapids can live up to their potential with the recruitment of Bracewell and Santner, who will not only provide spin options but are also set to bat in what should be a powerful top six. There is also a belief that Pat Brown can recapture the form with the ball that won him an England T20 call.
Captain: Shan Masood
Overseas players: Shan Masood (Pakistan), David Wiese (Namibia, after IPL commitments with KKR).
Finals Day appearances: 3 (2012, 2016, 2022)
2022 finish: Semi-finals
2022 leading runscorer: Adam Lyth (525)
2022 leading wicket taker: Jordan Thompson (17)
Key winter moves: It’s as much who’s left as who’s joined. Dynamic duo David Willey - Yorkshire’s ex-Blast captain - and Tom Kohler-Cadmore departed to Northamptonshire and Somerset and have left a hole. Harry Brook’s limited availability is also a blow. The signing of veteran all-rounder David Wiese is a smart one, while rookie leg-spinner Jafar Chohan could emerge.
The big question: Yorkshire have gone into many a Blast campaign amongst the favourites down the years. That won’t be the case this year, even though they reached last year’s Finals Day. Can they surprise a few and claim a maiden Blast crown? It would be the perfect tonic for a squad who haven’t had the easiest of starts to the summer.
Wildcard watch: George Hill – The all-rounder has already caught the eye in Championship cricket over the last couple of years, but the 22-year-old is yet to emerge in the Blast having only played 14 times since debuting in 2020. A crisp striker who loves to attack spin and a canny seamer, this would be the perfect time to shine for Yorkshire and with Hundred teams watching.
Final thought: As well as targeting a maiden Blast title, Yorkshire will also hope to reverse last season’s Roses record when they were beaten twice in thrillers, including in the semi-final, and drew the other clash. The Vikings have only won five Roses Blast matches in the last 10 seasons.
Captain: Simon Harmer
Overseas players: Simon Harmer (South Africa), Daniel Sams (Australia).
Finals Day appearances: 5 (2006, 2008, 2010, 2013, 2019)
Titles: 1 (2019)
2022 finish: Quarter-finals
2022 leading run-scorer: Michael Pepper (439)
2022 leading wicket-taker: Simon Harmer (17)
Key winter moves: It is 2022 all over again as far as Essex are concerned. They were sufficiently impressed with the Australian T20 specialist Daniel Sams (a strike-rate of 171.87 with the bat last season alongside 15 wickets) that they have asked him to return.
The big question: Michael Pepper has emerged in the past two seasons as an in-demand T20 gunslinging number three with a 360-degreee game. He was Essex’s leading run-scorer in both the 2021 and 2022 campaigns, ramping, scooping and reverse-sweeping from ball one. Can he do it again?
Wildcard watch: Feroze Khushi - With six Essex players already signed up by The Hundred teams, any additions are going to have to take what chances come their way in the Blast. Khushi hit a career-best 67 from 40 balls last season; something similar could pique interest.
Final thought: Because they are the warm-up act for Ireland’s Test against England, Essex will begin the Blast two or three games behind everyone else. As they are notoriously slow starters they could be looking up at the pace-setters for some time. However, they do have a tendency to finish the competition strongly, so may have their rivals looking over their shoulders.
Captain: David Lloyd
Overseas players: Michael Neser (Australia, available pending Ashes call-up), Colin Ingram (South Africa)
Finals Day appearances: 2 (2004, 2017)
2022 finish: Sixth (South Group)
2022 leading runscorer: Sam Northeast (510 runs)
2022 leading wicket taker: Michael Hogan (20 wickets)
Key winter moves: Glamorgan have secured the services of Colin Ingram for the next two years and he will be available throughout the campaign, but will be without Michael Hogan, their leading wicket taker in 2022, who has left for Kent.
The big question: The availability of Michael Neser remains unclear as Glamorgan head into the Blast with the Australian very much in the mix for a call up into the Ashes squad in the event of injury. With Michael Hogan gone Neser’s wickets become even more important for the Welsh side.
Wildcard watch: Dan Douthwaite – This is a big year for Douthwaite who is more than capable of a match-winning performance with the bat and the ball. As a big hitting all-rounder he is the kind of player The Hundred teams could be looking for if he has a good year in the Blast.
Final thought: With just two Finals Day appearances and no titles, the Blast is a big gap in the club’s record that they will be looking to fill in 2023. In order to claim that first Blast title much will depend on the performance of the white-ball players who have not been part of the County Championship games so far when they come into the team.
Captain: Jack Taylor
Overseas players: Grant Roelofsen (South Africa), Zafar Gohar (Pakistan)
Finals Day appearances: 3 (2003, 2007, 2020)
2022 finish: Fifth (South Group)
2022 leading run-scorer: Glenn Phillips (340)
2022 leading wicket taker: David Payne (18)
Key winter moves: Gloucestershire are a team in transition following the departure of established stars Benny Howell, Ian Cockbain and Ryan Higgins. Financial pressures have precluded the return of overseas batsman Glenn Phillips and South African wicketkeeper-batter Grant Roelofsen has been recruited to help plug the gap in the top order. Pakistani spinner Zafar Gohar has been contracted for the entirety of the competition.
The big question: Can Roelofsen reproduce the white-ball form that made him a big hit with Essex in the One Day Cup last year? A proven top-order batsman, the 26-year-old South African scored 355 runs at an average of 59.16 across seven matches and achieved a highest score of 90 against Yorkshire at Chelmsford in the 50-over competition. His most impressive figures have come in T20 cricket, in which he has scored 1,349 runs in 44 innings at 34.58 and at a strike-rate of 125.37.
Wildcard watch: Graeme van Buuren - Released by Birmingham Phoenix, he possesses the skill-set required to be an effective operator in The Hundred. A serious shoulder injury wrecked his T20 campaign in 2022, but the experienced South African all-rounder is back and firing on all cylinders. His canny slow left-arm bowling and ability to bat anywhere in the top and middle order render him a versatile type, suitable to cope with all manner of situations.
Final thought: Gloucestershire's chances of success will, in large degree, be dependent upon the ability of up-and-coming Academy products to learn on the job. Gone are the days when they could afford to splash the cash and the county has instead opted to go with youth in place of expensive specialists. Benn Wells made the transition to first-team T20 cricket last year and will be joined by talented young brothers Tom and Ollie Price in attempting to establish themselves as effective performers in the Blast.
Captain: James Vince
Overseas players: Nathan Ellis (Australia), Ben McDermott (Australia)
Finals Day appearances: 9 (2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2017, 2021, 2022)
Titles: 3 (2010, 2012, 2022)
2022 finish: Winners
2022 leading runscorer: James Vince (678)
2022 leading wicket taker: James Fuller (23)
Key winter moves: How do you improve a flawless bowling unit – which dominated in the powerplay, squeezed in the middle and defended at the death? Bring in the most innovative bowler in the world, who has taken more Blast wickets than 11 others, ie Benny Howell. Everything else that made the Hawks great in 2022 stays the same.
The big question: Can they defend their crown? No team has managed to do it before, you wouldn’t bet against them if they can get on a run like last year. Having one man score almost 700 runs and four bowlers claiming 20 or more wickets – with five regular bowlers averaging under 23 – will be hard to replicate.
Wildcard watch: Tom Prest - Other than McDermott, almost all of Hampshire’s likely starters already have a Hundred gig locked down. Prest is the legible man out, although he spurned the big lights to guarantee playing time in the One Day Cup last year. Aneurin Donald and Scott Currie are outside bets if they break into the Hawks line-up.
Final thought: Barring maybe James Vince, Hampshire are a team of excellent cricketers rather than superstars. It is head coach Adi Birrell’s way. The South African guru added the SA20 to his Blast medal with a similarly steady-on-paper team over the winter. The bowling attack is perhaps the closest thing cricket comes to Total Football.
Captain: Sam Billings
Overseas players: Kane Richardson (Australia), George Linde (South Africa).
Finals Day appearances: 4 (2007, 2008, 2009, 2021)
Titles: 2 (2007, 2021)
2022 finish: Ninth (South Group)
2022 leading run scorer: Joe Denly (423)
2022 leading wicket taker: Qais Ahmad and Grant Stewart (both 14)
Key winter moves: Darren Stevens has gone, but the nucleus of the side that won the title in 2021 before tanking a year later is basically intact. Mystery spinner Qais Ahmad was less of a mystery second time out so the Spitfires have gone for Richardson’s proven T20 pedigree. Billings is available from the start, having spurned the IPL.
The big question: Which Kent will turn up? The all-conquering champions of 2021 or the anaemic imitation of last season? The squad is full of proven match-winners, but they had too many collective off days and the fielding deteriorated drastically: no side can seriously hope to reach Finals Day if it’s dropping three catches per game.
Wildcard watch: Daniel Bell-Drummond or Joey Evison – Both would both be attractive, especially if they shine in the Blast, while Jack Leaning is a prolific top-order batter and an economical spinner. It wouldn’t be his first time: in 2021 he was about to captain Kent at Beckenham when the call came in and he was diverted to the Kia Oval.
Final thought: The death overs were a little too literal for Kent last season. The 2021 success owed a lot to the way they pushed on in overs 18 to 20 when batting first. In 2022 they repeatedly had their opponents by the throat, only to falter at the pointy end of the innings. Richardson should go some way to addressing this.
Captain: Stephen Eskinazi
Overseas player: Pieter Malan (South Africa).
Finals Day appearances: 1 (2008)
2022 finish: Eighth (South Group)
2022 leading runscorer: Stephen Eskinazi (431)
2022 leading wicket taker: Martin Andersson (17)
Key winter moves: Middlesex’s winter plans were torn up when left-arm spinner Keshav Maharaj suffered serious injury days after signing for this competition and he’s yet to be replaced. However, both South African Pieter Malan and all-rounder Ryan Higgins have been added since the Seaxes underwhelming showing last season, so giving their line-up a more robust feel.
The big question: There are a number. How much difference will a genuine ‘finisher’ like Higgins make to Middlesex’s batting prowess? Will Blake Cullen recover from last season’s injuries to bolster an attack too often put to the sword in this format? And did Eskinazi learn anything from his stint in the Big Bash League with which to inspire his troops?
Wildcard watch: Joe Cracknell - With only two players, snapped up so far, several Middlesex players have cases to make. However, in a game where fans want to see big hits, franchises might want to take a look at Cracknell, an exciting young batter who strikes a long ball and who’s impressed in the Blast in recent seasons.
Final thought: Having a 'finisher' like Higgins back in harness gives Middlesex a better balance with the bat. Others like Cracknell and young quicks Toby Greatwood and Max Harris are now a year older, but they may need Blake Cullen fit and Tom Helm at his best to improve on just two quarter-final appearances since lifting the trophy in 2008.
Captain: Tom Abell
Overseas players: Matt Henry (New Zealand), Peter Siddle (Australia)
Finals Day appearances: 8 (2005, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2018, 2021, 2022)
Titles: 1 (2005)
2022 finish: Semi-finals
2022 leading runscorer: Rilee Rossouw (623)
2022 leading wicket taker: Ben Green (21)
Key winter moves: Big-hitting Tom Kohler-Cadmore is expected to open the batting, joining a top order of fast scorers in the Blast, following his move from Yorkshire, while New Zealand Test player Matt Henry has been recruited as an overseas player to boost the seam attack and could prove an experienced option for bowling at the death.
The big question: Can Somerset maintain form throughout a competition they have only won once, 18 years ago. Last year, having sailed through the group with some devastating displays, the Cidermen failed to do themselves justice in the semi-final against Hampshire, by no means the only time they have underperformed on Finals Day when it mattered most.
Wildcard watch: Ben Green - Somerset’s One-Day Cup captain proved himself with bat and ball in limited overs games last season, smashing 157 in a 50-over game against Durham at Taunton and finishing as the team’s top wicket-taker in the Blast with his seam bowling. Currently, a white ball specialist, Green is well capable of clearing the ropes with the bat and troubling top batsmen with the ball.
Final thought: Spectators at the Cooper Associates County Ground look guaranteed more batting fireworks with power-hitters like Tom Kohler-Cadmore, Tom Banton and Will Smeed at the top of the order and other players in Lewis Gregory, Ben Green and Craig Overton, who relish clearing the ropes. Taking wickets on the true Taunton pitches could hold the key to qualifying for Finals Day.
Captain: Chris Jordan
Overseas players: Sunil Narine (West Indies), Sean Abbott (Australia)
Finals Day appearances: 7 (2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2013, 2014, 2020)
Titles: 1 (2003)
2022 finish: Quarter-finals
2022 leading run-scorer: Will Jacks (449)
2022 leading wicket-taker: Chris Jordan (17)
Key winter moves: The only significant change in Surrey’s short-form ranks from last year is the arrival of Sean Abbott, the Australian fast bowler who also hits a long ball, as an overseas player in place of West Indies veteran all-rounder Kieron Pollard. Abbott, 31, has played 11 ODIs and nine T20 internationals.
The big question: Can Surrey finally add to their only previous T20 Cup triumph, which came under Adam Hollioake’s captaincy way back in the inaugural tournament in 2003. Since then there have been six other Finals Day appearances, with runners-up finishes in 2004, 2013 and 2020. A Blast title is certainly high on Surrey’s wish list for this summer as they also try to retain their 2022 LV= Insurance County Championship crown.
Wildcard watch: Jordan Clark and Tom Lawes - Twelve Surrey players were selected in the Hundred Draft, either retained or picked, but of those still without a franchise the likes of all-rounders Clark and Lawes, plus Aussie paceman and UK passport holder Dan Worrall, will be looking to catch the eye.
Final thought: Surrey’s recent championship success has been based, bowling-wise, on an outstanding pace battery but in T20 they look far more to spin, with West Indian wizard Sunil Narine – perhaps the world’s best mystery spinner in short-form cricket – backed up by combative left-armer Dan Moriarty and the off spin of multi-talented all-rounder Will Jacks. The batting, meanwhile, looks strong and deep.
Captain: Ravi Bopara
Overseas players: Nathan McAndrew (Australia), Shadab Khan (Pakistan), Ari Karvelas (Greece).
Finals Day appearances: 5 (2007, 2009, 2012, 2018, 2021)
Titles: 1 (2009)
2022 finish: Seventh (South Group)
2022 leading run scorer: Tom Alsop (318)
2022 leading wicket taker: Tymal Mills (15)
Key winter moves: Luke Wright’s retirement will leave a big hole in the top order, but the Sharks have recruited well from overseas. Nathan McAndrew had a good Big Bash with Sydney Thunder and brings new-ball experience and middle-order hitting potential while the experienced Shadab Khan looks an ideal replacement for Rashid Khan.
The big question: Sussex have plenty of bowling options and Pakistan leg-spinner Shadab Khan looks a terrific signing, but can Sussex get enough runs on the board? Tom Alsop, who missed the first four games of 2022 but still finished leading scorer, has the temperament to anchor the innings and let others go for their shots.
Wildcard watch: Ali Orr - In Wright’s absence Orr is likely to get an extended opportunity at the top of the order. He has only played eight T20 games in his career but has all the shots in white-ball cricket, as he proved in 2022 when he scored Sussex’s first List A double hundred against Somerset.
Final thought: Two appearances at Finals Day in four years vindicated Sussex’s decision to prioritise the Blast but 2022 was their worst performance for a decade with only four wins. They will miss Wright and Rashid Khan, who could win matches on their own, and their hopes of making the knockouts may depend on the experienced Ravi Bopara, Tymal Mills and Steven Finn rolling back the years.
©Cricket World 2023