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The matches come thick and fast in the Vitality Blast 2018 and teams that get off to a poor start are often left struggling to come out of that rut. Middlesex will be taking on Surrey in a London derby to start off things for both sides. Middlesex had a very disappointing season last time around where stories names such Brendon McCullum could not do much for them. Surrey did well in the group stages but was unable to overcome the knockouts. Both teams will have aspirations to do better this time around.
The partnership of Brendon McCullum and Daniel Vettori was supposed to propel Middlesex to new heights but things did not quite pan out that way. They finished seventh in the South Group and ended up winning just five out of its 14 matches.
This year, the county has changed tack and brought in Dwayne Bravo and Ashton Agar as their overseas players. Agar is going to be busy with the Australian T20 side for the first three matches, though, and this is why Middlesex has arranged for Hilton Cartwright to cover for him in the meantime.
Cartwright is a very powerful hitter of the ball and quite decent with the ball as well. He is actually a better player than the one he is replacing in our opinion but Middlesex will have to make do with what they have.
Dwayne Bravo has seen a resurgence in his T20 batting as evidenced by the IPL and that should once again be good news for Middlesex. Bravo’s death bowling is still very effective and he should have a big impact on this year’s competition.
Eoin Morgan will be unavailable until England completes its limited-overs leg of the series against England and it will be Dawid Malan captaining the side. Malan and Stirling make for a very exciting batting duo to watch out for especially coupled with two quality international all-rounders.
The bowling for Middlesex is also pretty good thanks to the availability of Toby Roland-Jones, Steven Finn, and Tom Helm (the highest wicket-taker for Middlesex last season).
The core of the team is pretty solid and the only weakness that appears is in the local batting talent. If Middlesex loses a few wickets up front then it is difficult to see them getting up to a good enough total.
Dawid Malan, PR Stirling, Nick Gubbins, Stephen Eskinazi, John Simpson, Dwayne Bravo, Hilton Cartwright, James Fuller, Thomas Helm, Nathan Sowter, Ravi Patel.
As a side blessed with talent, Surrey expects to have its team competing for silverware every single year. They finished 2nd in the group stages last year but ended up being knocked out in the quarter-finals. This year will be another that Surrey enters with plenty of expectations, however, they do have some stiff challenges to overcome as well.
The biggest challenge for Surrey is to have all of its players available. Names like Jason Roy, Sam Curran, Tom Curran, and Aaron Finch will be missing from the opening fixture. There is plenty of quality to call upon for Surry even with these players missing but the disruption to the squad is clear.
Nic Maddinson will be expected to fill in for Aaron Finch until the Australian ODI series is over although both players will play side by side afterward. Maddinson had an excellent Big Bash and was the highest scorer for his side.
He will lead the batting charge with Ollie Pope, Rory Burns, and Rikki Clarke in the side. The bowling is in excellent shape as well thanks to the Kolpak signing of Morne Morkel. The tall fast South African is going to be a handful to face especially now that he is going to be available to pay the entire tournament.
Jade Dernbach, who took the most wickets for Surrey last season and is going to be skipper once again, is very effective in T20 cricket. He has always had the variations and has also become the stable statesman that no one could have predicted a few years ago!
With Stuart Meaker and Scott Borthwick also available for the first match, there is no question about Surrey having a good bowling attack.
Surrey will be very keen to win a few matches before all of its big guns return because that will really set its season up nicely. Whether it can cope with the unavailability of almost half of its first choice side remains to be seen.
Will Jacks, Rory Burns, Ben Foakes, Ollie Pope, Scott Borthwick, Sam Curran, Jamie Smith, Rikki Clarke, Morne Morkel, Gareth Batty, Jade Dernbach.
The team winning the toss is likely to field first
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The weather has been quite in England so far and there is a bit of a heat wave going around. The current prediction for the match suggests that we should have another good day of cricket without too much chance of rain.
The pitch at Lords is expected to be very good for batting. Bowlers which change their pace or roll their fingers overs can expect to be successful otherwise the batsmen can just line them up and hit across the line.
A score of around 170 should be considered par.
Middlesex has almost all of its first choice side available while Surrey is going to be missing quite a few of its players. Home advantage is also going to be on the side of Middlesex. With odds guaranteeing twice the return on a bet, it is hard to look past Middlesex in this one.
Back Middlesex to win.