Vitality T20 Blast 2021: North Group Team Previews - All you need to Know
Vitality T20 Blast 2021 is a Domestic T20 Tournament played in England and Wales, consisting of 133 T20 matches. It is scheduled to be played between June 9th - September 18th 2021.
Coach: Mark Robinson
Captain: Will Rhodes
Last Year’s Performance: Third (Central Group)
2020 Leading Runscorer: Sam Hain (284 runs, average 56.80)
2020 Leading Wicket Taker: Olly Stone (14 wickets, average 17.50)
Overseas players: Carlos Brathwaite (West Indies – whole tournament), Pieter Malan (South Africa – whole tournament)
Key man: Carlos Brathwaite - The West Indies all-rounder is a marquee signing and the Bears will look to him in terms of both performance and personality to drive their young and evolving side.
Flies under the radar: Jake Lintott - The wrist-spinner burst into the Blast side as an unknown quantity last year and bowled superbly. Not quite so unknown this time round but still an engaging mystery.
Best Player Under 24: Rob Yates - The 21-year-old batsman has proved he can play long innings in red-ball cricket. Last year he showed he has the range and confidence to shine in T20 too.
Blast expectations: Inconsistent and disappointing in recent seasons, much better is expected of the Bears this season under two men who know how to win in the format, director of cricket Paul Farbrace and first team coach Mark Robinson.
Last year's campaign concluded with an absolute nightmare when, in a winner-takes-all final group game against Northants Steelbacks at Edgbaston, they went to pieces with the ball and threw away an apparently impregnable position. Much greater resilience under pressure will be demanded this time - and much will depend on how they fare during a tough start of five straight away games due to the opening week of the tournament coinciding with Edgbaston hosting a LV= Insurance Test match against New Zealand.
Coach: Dominic Cork
Captain: Billy Godleman
Last Year’s Performance: Sixth (North Group)
2020 Leading Runscorer: Wayne Madsen (192 @ 24.00)
2020 Leading Wicket Takers: Dustin Melton (4 @ 31.00), Alex Hughes (4 @ 41.00), Matt Critchley (4 @ 58.75)
Overseas players: Ben McDermott (Australia – whole tournament), Logan van Beek (Netherlands – whole tournament).
Key man: Ben McDermott - The 26-year-old has earned a reputation as a T20 destroyer, highlighted by a swag-bag of 21 sixes for Hobart Hurricanes in last season's Big Bash.
Flies under the radar: Alex Hughes - Rarely grabs the headlines but the all-rounder is Derbyshire's leading T20 wicket-taker with 53 victims.
Best Player Under 24: Sam Conners - The 22-year-old fast bowler only made his T20 bow last year but his ability to swing the ball at pace could see him emerge in 2021.
Blast expectations: After reaching Finals Day in 2019, the Falcons failed to get off the ground last summer, winning only one game and losing seven although all their matches were played away as Derby was used by the ECB as a bio-secure ground. McDermott has the potential to revive their fortunes and be one of the stars of the tournament while Madsen and Critchley will also be central to Derbyshire's hopes of challenging in a tough group. The loss of Australian fast bowler Billy Stanlake is a blow but his replacement, the 30-year-old van Beek, played his part in the Falcons’ run to Edgbaston two years ago, claiming nine wickets and returning figures of four for 17 against Yorkshire.
Coach: James Franklin
Last Year’s Performance: Fourth (North Group)
2020 Leading Runscorer: Alex Lees (365 @ 52.14)
2020 Leading Wicket Takers: Matty Potts (13 @ 18.07), Paul Coughlin (13 @ 16.23)
Overseas players: Cameron Bancroft (Australia – whole tournament), David Bedingham (South Africa – whole tournament)
Key man: Cameron Bancroft - Durham’s batting beyond the powerplay has been an issue for two seasons. Bancroft should be able to use his expansive strokeplay to maintain the pace of the innings.
Flies under the radar: Graham Clark - Clark has been quietly impressive at the top of the order. Clark provides a spark from the off, notching two fifties last term with a strike rate of 171.71.
Best Player Under 24: Matty Potts - Potts broke his own career-best figures in the Blast three times in 2020. He was accurate and deadly bowling in the powerplay. Potts will be a key player this term.
Blast expectations: Durham fell agonisingly short of the quarter-finals for the second Blast campaign in a row. James Franklin’s side received outstanding contributions from individuals, notably Lees, Clark, Potts, Coughlin and Ben Raine. However, in the crunch moments, Durham were not able to rise to the occasion. There is not a great deal of turnover in the squad, losing former captain Nathan Rimmington, Scott Steel and Farhaan Berhardien, none of whom excelled last term. Bancroft should provide experience and the ability to clear the fence in the middle order that has been sorely lacking. David Bedingham will also be richer for his experience last year. The batting ranks look solid, while a core of bowlers of Potts, Coughlin and Brydon Carse at their peak is an exciting prospect. Look for a quarter-final push from Durham in the 2021 season.
Coach: Glen Chapple
Captain: Dane Vilas
Last year’s performance: Semi-finalists
2020 Leading Runscorer: Alex Davies (299 @ 29.9)
2020 Leading Wicket Taker: Matthew Parkinson (15 @ 20.66)
Overseas players: Dane Vilas (South Africa - whole tournament), Finn Allen (New Zealand - whole group stage, knockouts TBC)
Key man: Matthew Parkinson - England leg-spinner with 75 wickets in the last four Blast campaigns combined. Lightning’s leading wicket taker in each of those. Loves bowling at difficult times, including at the death.
Flies under the radar: Alex Davies - England players Livingstone, Mahmood and Parkinson get the headlines, but the diminutive wicketkeeper batsman (opener) is a star performer. Lightning’s leading runscorer for last three years, including 534 in 2018.
Best player under 24: Finn Allen - Explosive batsman, 22, who made T20 debut for New Zealand in March. Tall opener similar to Tom Banton. Could break up longstanding opening partnership between Alex Davies and Liam Livingstone.
Blast expectations: Lancashire are desperate to add to the solitary title they won in 2015 under the guidance of current England director of cricket Ashley Giles. Beaten semi-finalists in 2018 and 2020, they were beaten in the quarters by 2019 champions Essex. They have all the tools at their disposal. Power and nous with the bat, plenty of pace and spin with the ball. Especially strong on home turf at Emirates Old Trafford, where they push the boundaries out to suit their spinners. With the bat, they have more than enough power to clear those boundaries. It would be a big surprise if they didn’t reach the quarter-finals. Then it is just about being better in those pressure moments which come in knockout games. Only current champions Nottinghamshire have won more matches (119) than Lancashire (118) since the start of the Vitality Blast in 2003.
Coach: Paul Nixon
Captain: Colin Ackermann
Last Year’s Performance: Quarter-finalists
2020 Leading Runscorer: Aaron Lilley (278 @ 30.88)
2020 Leading Wicket Taker: Gavin Griffiths (10 @ 18.00), Callum Parkinson (10 @ 21.00).
Overseas players: Naveen-ul-Haq (Afghanistan - whole tournament), Josh Inglis (Australia – whole tournament).
Key man: Colin Ackermann - Leicestershire’s world-record holder - the only bowler to take seven wickets in a T20 innings - remains the county’s mainstay in all formats.
Flies under the radar: Gavin Griffiths - Joint leading wicket-taker in 2021, the Lancastrian pace bowler has 32 T20 wickets in four seasons since moving to the Uptonsteel County Ground.
Best Player Under 24: Naveen-ul-Haq - Only 21 years old, the Afghanistan fast bowler has already played in eight T20Is and seven ODIs. Known for his unusual action and an array of slower balls.
Blast expectations: Bottom of the North Division in 2019, Leicestershire surprised even themselves last year by almost reaching Finals Day for the first time since 2011. The Foxes squeezed into the knock-out stage with wins against Nottinghamshire and Lancashire before an unlucky exit in a low-scoring quarter-final against the eventual champions at Trent Bridge, when a last-ball misfield cruelly eliminated Leicestershire on the tie-breaker of runs scored in the Powerplay. Whether they can go one better this season remains to be seen but overseas pair Naveen-ul-Haq and Josh Inglis come with good stats in the format, while Scott Steel, their signing from Durham, had an outstanding 2019, including a 30-ball 70 against the Foxes at Grace Road. They will hope at least to be in contention.
Coach: David Ripley
Captain: Josh Cobb
Last Year’s Performance: Quarter-finalists
2020 Leading Runscorer: Paul Stirling (232 @ 25.77)
2020 Leading Wicket Taker: Ben Sanderson (12 @ 22.25)
Overseas players: Mohammad Nabi (Afghanistan), Wayne Parnell (South Africa)
Key man: Richard Levi - Without Paul Stirling at the top of the order, extra responsibility will fall on the broad, experienced shoulders of big-hitting Levi to lay strong foundations in the powerplay.
Flies under the radar: Graeme White - Along with his consistent spin bowling, White also contributes valuable runs – evidenced by a 12-ball 37 not out against Birmingham to seal the Steelbacks’ quarter-final place last year.
Best Player Under 24: Saif Zaib - Having nailed down a regular place in Northants’ T20 side last season, the all-rounder will be aiming to build on glimpses of promise with both bat and ball.
Blast expectations: Despite featuring in three finals between 2013 and 2016, Northamptonshire have struggled in the tournament since the last of those, their second Blast success. The Steelbacks peaked early in 2020, winning four of their first five group matches before losing four on the trot and eventually scraping into to the quarter-finals.
But, although Alex Wakely – who captained Northants to both of those Blast victories – has retired, there is still plenty of experience within the squad at Wantage Road. Wayne Parnell, a Blast winner with Worcestershire Rapids in 2018, brings further depth to a capable seam attack led by Ben Sanderson, while off-spinner Mohammad Nabi also looks an astute overseas signing.
The question may be whether the Steelbacks’ batting line-up can deliver the goods regularly enough to secure a place in the knockout stages again.
Coach: Peter Moores
Captain: Dan Christian
Last Year’s Performance: Champions
2020 Leading Runscorer: Joe Clarke (371 @ 37.10)
2020 Leading Wicket Taker: Jake Ball (19 @ 13.63)
Overseas players: Dan Christian (Australia – whole tournament), Dane Paterson (South Africa - whole tournament)
Key man: Alex Hales - Had a sub-par Blast in 2020 yet bounced back as top scorer in the Big Bash and with 8,066 runs is the highest scoring Englishman in T20 history.
Flies under the radar: Steven Mullaney - Seldom makes headlines but scores quickly and has a knack of chipping in with vital wickets with his medium pace wobblers.
Best Player Under 24: Lyndon James - Yet to appear in the Blast but is expected to get his chance after impressing with bat and ball in red ball cricket this season.
Blast expectations: Semi-finalists three times in the last four seasons and winners twice, the defending champions are among the favourites again, although they must manage without left-arm spinner Imad Wasim from their title-winning team because of the clash with the rearranged Pakistan Super League, while 2020 leading wicket-taker Jake Ball has not played any cricket since April 9 because of a back injury. Nonetheless, with a top order comprising Alex Hales, Ben Duckett and Joe Clarke and big hitters such as Dan Christian and Tom Moores in the middle, Nottinghamshire should score heavily again, while Wasim’s absence will an opportunity for veteran all-rounder Samit Patel to show he can still make an impact in his 19th T20 campaign, having made 191 appearances since the competition began in 2003, more than any other player. Anything less than another trip to Finals Day will be seen as a disappointment.
Coach: Alex Gidman
Captain: Moeen Ali (stand-in captain when unavailable to be confirmed)
Last Year’s Performance: Bottom (Central Group)
2020 Leading Run Scorer: Hamish Rutherford (352 @ 39.11)
2020 Leading Wicket Taker: Ed Barnard (10 @ 26.00)
Overseas players: Ben Dwarshuis (Australia – whole tournament), Sandeep Lamichhane (Nepal – whole tournament)
Key man: Ben Dwarshuis - Leading wicket-taker for winners Sydney Sixers in the latest edition of the Big Bash and will add much needed variety to Rapids attack as a left-armer.
Flies under the radar: Ross Whiteley - By his standards had a couple of quiet T20 years but his big-hitting can destroy any attack and needs to impress in final year of current contract.
Best Player Under 24: Sandeep Lamichhane - Still only 20 but has plenty of experience from many T20 franchises and his leg spin will be unknown commodity in this country.
Blast expectations: The Rapids won the competition in 2018 and were runners-up in 2019 and there is a determination to ensure last season’s below-woeful performance was a mere blip. The absence of Moeen Al and Wayne Parnell plus an under-cooked Pat Brown, after being a non-playing member in the England bubble, meant their attack was weakened and their batsmen also failed to deliver.
The expected availability of Rapids captain Moeen for part of the tournament will be a massive boost in both skill sets and he is capable of taking any attack apart at the top of the order. Overseas signings Ben Dwarshuis and Sandeep Lamichane will add T20 experience and variety to an attack that was often cannon fodder last summer.
Expect Riki Wessels to rediscover his hitting skills as he looks to repeat his 2019 form when setting a new Rapids record for most Blast runs in a season – 461. It will be a disappointment if the Rapids do not at least qualify from their group for the knockout stages.
Coach: Andrew Gale
Captain: David Willey
Last year’s performance: Fifth (North Group)
2020 Leading Runscorer: Adam Lyth (308 @ 38.5)
2020 Leading Wicket Taker: Matthew Fisher (8 @ 15.25), Jordan Thompson (8 @ 25.5)
Overseas players: Lockie Ferguson (New Zealand - whole group stage), Duanne Olivier (South Africa - whole tournament), Mathew Pillans (South Africa - whole tournament)
Key man: David Willey - Captain and explosive all-rounder has only found rhythm for Yorkshire this summer following injury and unavailability - five years after leaving Northamptonshire. If he finds form, the Vikings could fly.
Flies under the radar: Jordan Thompson - Emerging all-rounder to watch at 24. Last season’s standout player for Yorkshire in four-day cricket, he bats, bowls and fields and has plenty of fire in his belly.
Best player under 24: Harry Brook. Exhilarating batsman, 22. Scored maiden fifty in 25th T20 appearance at the end of 2020 and will plan to build on strong starts from openers Adam Lyth and Tom Kohler-Cadmore.
Blast expectations: How Yorkshire have only ever reached Finals Day twice (2012 and 2016) is a mystery. They have had strong squads throughout the last two decades, but success hasn’t arrived. This year is no different. England duo Jonny Bairstow and Adil Rashid should be available for the first four or five matches, and the Vikings must capitalise. Plenty of batting power, they have beefed up their fast-bowling stocks with the signing of New Zealand quick Lockie Ferguson. Captain David Willey has helped design a striking new Nike playing shirt and wants his team to play a similarly electric brand of cricket. But they have to play smart as well if they want to break their trophy duck.
©Cricket World 2021