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The Vitality Blast 2018 is not expected to have too many teams that are a cut below the rest, in fact, one of the reasons why this T20 competition has seen plenty of interest is because of the close nature of contests. One of the few teams which have suffered in quality due to off-field financial concerns, penalties, and an exodus of players is Durham. They ended the last season with just three wins and will definitely want to better this time around. Durham will be starting its season against Yorkshire, one of the traditional powerhouses of the game, but one that has also suffered because of players making itself unavailable at the last minute.
Can the Durham Jets stop the Yorkshire Vikings from walking all over them or are we in for a surprise?
There has been a lot of rumbling from the Yorkshire Vikings camp about the manner in which player availability is hurting its plans. Top-class local talent is always going to be made available to the England national side but last minute pull-outs because of IPL contracts, foreign players cutting short their stints or leaving them in the lurch altogether has left the Yorkshire Vikings with a bad taste in their mouth.
Billy Stanlake, who was supposed to be their overseas player for the entire season, has now declined to come at all and that will obviously leave a hole in the Yorkshire lineup.
Still, Yorkshire has always been resilient enough to fight back and we expect nothing different this time around.
Kane Williamson has been recruited as the sole overseas player and he is a very canny pick in our opinion. Often overlooked for the T20 format, Williamson has made quite a name for himself in the IPL. He opened the batting or batted 3 for the Sunrisers Hyderabad this season and was one of the highest run-getters in the entire tournament.
Williamson will lead the batting assault for the Vikings alongside players such as Adam Lyth, Gary Balance, and Tom Kohler-Cadmore. David Willey, Adil Rashid, Liam Plunkett, and Jonny Bairstow wil not be available as they are away on England national duty but Yorkshire can expect at least a few of them to return once the white ball cricket has been completed.
Tim Bresnan will have a big role to play as an all-rounder while Azeem Rafiq will want to show that he can lead the spin attack in the absence of Adil Rashid as well.
The Yorkshire Vikings are going to be missing some players but they still have plenty of class in their squad to call upon.
Adam Lyth, Tom Kohler-Cadmore, Harry Brook, GS Ballance, Jack Leaning, Jonathan Tattersall, TT Bresnan, Azeem Rafiq, Matthew Fisher, SA Patterson, Jack Brooks.
The problems for the Durham Jets seem insurmountable at times and the fans would be rightfully worried about their team being bossed around again by all the other times. Some good news, though, Durham has managed to pull off quite a coup by signing Imran Tahir for the duration of the competition. It was not too long ago that Tahir was rated as the best T20 bowler in the world and his non-selection for the Sri Lanka tour came as a surprise.
Durham, though, acted quickly and managed to convince him to play.
Imran Tahir becomes the second overseas player after Tom Latham to be available for the Durham Jets this season. Latham will also be captaining the Durham Jets and we are interested to see what kind of approach he takes.
Latham had built up the reputation of being a long format player only but his recent performances in white ball cricket have been very encouraging. With the talented and seemingly ageless Paul Collingwood also in the side, Durham has a few players that are capable of winning its matches on their own.
Apart from these three, though, the Durham Jets are struggling for depth in their batting. Pringle, Weighall, and McCarthy will be responsible for picking the wickets and keeping a lid on the scoring. We don’t think Durham will have the kind of horror season that it did last year but it is clear that teams facing Durham will not want to give up any points.
TWM Latham, Graham Clark, BA Stokes, PD Collingwood, Will Smith, Stuart Poynter, James Weighell, Ryan Pringle, Nathan Rimmington, Imran Tahir, Chris Rushworth.
The team winning the toss is likely to field first
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A few showers have been predicted for the match although the weather should get better as the day progresses. Hopefully, we are able to see a full game played out between the two sides. Leeds always has something in it for the bowlers but the Vitality Blast 2018 is going to be loaded heavily towards the batsmen.
We think a little bit of swing for the first few overs is all that the bowlers can expect. A score of around 160 can be treated as par.
The Yorkshire Vikings will be playing at home against one of the weakest sides in the competition. The home side is itself missing some key players and we think this will be a much closer contest than it appears on paper.
We are backing the underdogs Durham to pull off something special in this match and cause an upset.
Back the Durham Jets to win.