Vitality T20 Blast 2018 Preview

T20 cricket is the format of the game that is most likely to help globalize the game and we are about to witness another example of that. The inaugural edition of Global T20 Canada, a franchise based competition about to be held in Canada, is going to be played with some of the highest profile players in the world.

The Vitality T20 Blast 2018 is about to start and it is one of the most exciting T20 competitions around the world. It is also unique because it has 18 teams participating in it. The teams are divided into two groups that play each other for a spot in the finals day matches. Last year, Nottinghamshire Outlaws won the tournament and will be looking to defend that title this year around as well.

The T20 Blast is about to be supplanted in the English calendar as the premier T20 competition after the 100-ball tournament with 8 franchise based teams gets underway. We think, though, that the importance of the T20 format around the world will ensure that the T20 Blast remains heavily favored by the players.

Team Analysis and Tips


North Group


Nottinghamshire

  • Full Name: Nottinghamshire Outlaws
  • 2017 Result: 1st in North Group, Champions
  • Squad Changes:

    • Out: Brendan Taylor, Chris Read, Brett Hutton
    • In: Dan Christian, Ish Sodhi
  • Odds: 8.00

Nottinghamshire has been regarded as one of the best T20 teams in England for quite some time and they finally have a title to prove it. Not only did Nottinghamshire boss the group stages by winning 8 out of their 14 matches, they also dominated the knockout matches with a surprising amount of ease.

The chief reason for the dominance of the Nottinghamshire T20 team was their batsmen. Alex Hales scored 507 runs, Rikki Wessels scored 559 runs, and Samit Patel scored 405 runs for Notts last year. No other team had the kind of batting firepower that Nottinghamshire brought to the table.

Dan Christian was instrumental in an all-round role for Nottinghamshire as he scored 356 runs and picked up 11 wickets during the tournament. Dan Christian is going to be leading the T20 side this year and will be joined by Ish Sodhi as the other overseas player as well.

Everything that Nottinghamshire did last year worked for them. They had their best players available and everyone seemed to be in form. The biggest challenge for them will be to repeat that kind of success this year.

The core of the Nottinghamshire side is the same from last year, although, Alex Hales may not be available for a few matches as he plays white ball cricket for England and then goes to play the Caribbean Premier League towards the end of the Vitality T20 Blast 2018.

Jake Ball, who took 22 wickets for Nottinghamshire last season is also a part of the England set-up now. Overall, though, this is a strong squad that will be keen to repeat its success from last year.

Strengths: Strong batting lineup, well-balanced bowling attack, continuity in the squad

Weaknesses: International call-ups will disrupt the flow of the team

Our Prediction: 3rd


Derbyshire

  • Full Name: Derbyshire Falcons
  • 2017 Result: 2nd in the North Group, Quarter-Finalists
  • Squad Changes:

    • Out: Jeevan Mendis, Iran Tahir
    • In: Lockie Ferguson, Mitchell Santner, Wahab Riaz, Calum MacLeod, Safyan Sharif
  • Odds: 26.00

Derbyshire was one of four sides that finished with 8 victories at the end of the group campaign of last year’s T20 Blast but they could only get as far as the quarterfinals in the knockout stages. There was plenty to look about Derbyshire, though, as John Wright set about re-invigorating the T20 setup.

This year, the focus has moved from leg-spinners to fast bowlers and an orthodox left-arm bowler. Lockie Ferguson and Wahab Riaz are two fast bowlers with genuine pace that will make the batsmen think twice before they come on to the front foot. Lockie Ferguson is probably the more reliable of the two even though he has far lesser international experience, although, Wahab Riaz is more capable of running through a side.

Mitchell Santner is one of the best left-arm spinners in the world and will be a very useful addition to the Derbyshire squad. For Derbyshire to have another good season in the T20 Blast, Madsen and Reece will hope to have another stellar year.

Madsen scored 526 runs while Reece score 433 to lead the Derbyshire batting assault. They were helped with encouraging performances from Hughes, Critchley, and Godleman. It helps that Derbyshire also has a quality bowler like Hardus Viljoen to call on as its Kolpak player.

A good squad of players has seen some valuable additions to it. Derbyshire needs to guard against injury, though, as some of its fast bowlers are prone to it and also hope that its batsmen continue to score runs. The batting depth of Derbyshire is the only aspect which worries us. Calum MacLeod from Scotland has been added to the squad and he is in terrific form. How well he copes with the demands of the T20 Blast, though, remains to be seen.

Strengths: Excellent bowling attack with genuine pace and world class spinners

Weaknesses: Batting depth looks a little shallow

Our Prediction: 2nd


Warwickshire

  • Full Name: Birmingham Bears
  • 2017 Result: 3rd in the North Group, Finalists
  • Squad Changes:

    • Out: William Porterfield, Ateeq Javed, Mark Adair
    • In: Colin de Grandhomme, Will Rhodes
  • Odds: 13.00

An excellent T20 Blast campaign saw Warwickshire equal the most number of wins for any team in the group and then go on to reach the finals. Had a few things gone their way, the team could have ended up as champions instead of Nottinghamshire and they will be hoping to rectify that this year.

Warwickshire has a young team that will bank on the likes of Sam Hain, Dom Sibley, Ed Pollock, and Aaron Thomason to continue their impressive T20 form from last season. Will Rhodes, another 23 year old, has also been added to the squad this year.

Warwickshire has plenty of youth and also has the experience of Jeetan Patel and Grant Elliot to call upon. Patel picked up 20 wickets lasts season and was one of the most economical bowlers of the competition.

Elliot picked up 12 wickets and also scored 332 runs for the side.

One of the star performers for the Bears last season was Colin de Grandhomme, who has been recalled to the side this year. He scored 322 runs at a strike rate of 174.69 and smashed sixes with the utmost ease. His bowling was very useful as well as he picked up 5 wickets at crucial times.

Warwickshire is in an enviable place right now with a young base of talented T20 cricketers. If the seniors can continue with their performances for a couple of more seasons then Warwickshire could be building towards something special.

Warwickshire needs to get its balance right from the start and avoid losing some of the easy matches like it did last year.

Strengths: Young talented crop of batters, world-class all-rounders

Weaknesses: Fats bowling resources a little thin, poor championship form could carry over to the T20 Blast

Our Prediction: 4th


Leicestershire

  • Full Name: Leicestershire Foxes
  • 2017 Result: 4th in the North Group, Quarter-Finalists
  • Squad Changes:

    • Out: Clint McKay, Will Fazakerley
    • In: Mohammad Nabi, Mohammad Abbas
  • Odds: 34.00

Leicestershire started its campaign brilliantly last season winning its first four matches and then completely going off the rails. It has a tough task ahead of it this year and we think they may find it tough to make the knock out stages at all.

The team has lost the services of Clint McKay who took 23 wickets in last year’s T20 Blast. His absence is going to be difficult to fill and we are unsure how much the Pakistani overseas player Mohamad Abbas can be expected to achieve in his first full T20 Blast.

Leicestershire has also added Mohamad Nabi to the squad whom we believe to be a very canny T20 player. Nabi generally bowls flat off-spin bowling with the new ball and can come lower down the order to score a few valuable runs as well.

The bulk of the batting, though, will have to be done by Cosgrove, Colin Ackerman, and Cameron Delport. Luke Ronchi, who had a stellar year last season is not expected to be available due to other T20 commitments.

The loss of the highest run scorer and the most prolific bowler from last year is going to hurt Leicestershire no question. The loss of Ronchi also puts a hole in the ability of the team to hit sixes, something that has been directly co-related to success in the T20 game.

The Foxes are going to have their hands full this season due to missing key players and the added pressure could affect the performances of the others as well.

Strengths: Presence of good all-round cricketers in the squad

Weaknesses: Bowling stocks thin, missing key players from last season

Our Prediction: 8th


Yorkshire

  • Full Name: Yorkshire Vikings
  • 2017 Result: 5th in North Group
  • Squad Changes:

    • Out: Ryan Sidebottom, Will Rhodes, Shaun Marsh
    • In: -
  • Odds: 11.00

Yorkshire has been put in a bit of pickle after Billy Stanlake pulled out of its agreement with the county at the last minute. Shaun Marsh has signed with Glamorgan and some of Yorkshire’s top players will be playing for England during the majority of the Vitality Blast 2018.

We think there may be some mid-season announcements about overseas signings and transfers to Yorkshire but things are grim for the storied county right now. Luckily, there is plenty of talent on the homegrown front that should help Yorkshire be competitive.

Adam Lyth scored 535 runs in the T20 Blast last season and was an absolute revelation. He will have players like David Willey (446 runs), and Tom Kohler-Cadmore (286 runs) in his team for company. Gary Balance is not the first name that you think of when it comes to T20 cricket but he may also find himself in the squad this year and playing in the first eleven.

Tim Bresnan is another player that will be asked to do more than just biff the ball lower down the order and perhaps play as a middle order batsman.

Thankfully for Yorkshire, its bowling remains world class. The combination of Adil Rashid, Azeem Rafiq, David Willey, Tim Bresnan, and Liam Plunkett is formidable. There is quality spin to bank upon and good quality to pace to call on when needed.

Yorkshire will have to build its campaign around the bowlers and hope that its batsmen plus the all-rounders can provide the runs necessary in this competition. There has been no limited overs trophy won by Yorkshire since 2002 and the county faithful is getting restless. How much that external pressure plays a role on a depleted side remains to be seen.

Kane Williamson has been added to the squad but he will only be available for a few matches. Still, Williamson is a world class player that is coming off an incredible season in the IPL.

Strengths: Strong bowling attack, World Class T20 spinners in Adil Rashid

Weaknesses: Lack of depth in the batting

Our Prediction: 5th


Northamptonshire

  • Full Name: Northamptonshire Steelbacks
  • 2017 Result: 6th in North Group
  • Squad Changes:

    • Out: David Murphy, Azharullah
    • In: Brett Hutton, Luke Proctor, Seekkuge Prasann
  • Odds: 15.00

Northamptonshire is another side that is known for its T20 prowess across the circuit. This made its season last year a failure because it failed to qualify for the quarter-finals, albeit narrowly. The three washed out games that Northamptonshire suffered also had plenty to do with them not progressing and the team will be hoping for some better luck this time around.

Richard Levi has become one of the mainstays of the Northants T20 team and he will be the one expected to lead the batting assault this year as well. Levi scored 375 runs from just 8 innings last year and will certainly be looking to clear that tally this year.

Ben Duckett also seems to have fallen off the radar for England selections and that could be a good thing for Northamptonshire. With players like Rossington and Wakely in the batting lineup as well, the Steelbacks should not be lacking for runs this season.

A shrewd overseas acquisition for Northamptonshire has been the leg-spinner from Sri Lanka Seekkuge Prasanna. He has been a part of the T20 team before and is very effective in the T20 game. No T20 team is complete without a leg-spinner these days and Prasanna will ensure that the Steelbacks don’t fall behind in that aspect either.

Richard Gleeson, the promising fast bowler on England’s national team radar, will be leading the bowling attack this season. We don’t think Northamptonshire was too far from the pace last season and definitely see them making the quarterfinals this year. Expect a much-improved performance from the side.

Strengths: Experienced T20 side used to winning, strong batting lineup

Weaknesses: Bowling lineup has a few weak links that can be exploited

Our Prediction: 1st


Lancashire

  • Full Name: Lancashire Lightning
  • 2017 Result: 7th in North Group
  • Squad Changes:

    • Out: Luke Proctor, Kyle Jarvis
    • In: Keaton Jennings, Graham Onions, Joe Mennie, James Faulkner
  • Odds: 15.00

Lancashire continues to find white ball cricket and has a big challenge ahead of it this summer to be able to do better in the Vitality Blast 2018. They have made a few additions to their squad that should help. The first is the recall of James Faulkner, a player that helped Lancashire win the T20 Blast title in years gone by.

Faulkner has fallen out of favor with Australia and is losing his cache as a T20 superstar in leagues across the world. The Aussie all-rounder will be looking to make a point this season and hope to perform well enough to get back into the spotlight.

Jos Buttler, unfortunately for Lancashire, is now a part of the test setup for England so his participation in the Vitality Blast 2018 will be very limited. Joe Mennie from Australia, though, is expected to be available for the entire season, adding another layer of international quality to the bowling attack.

Lancashire will be disappointed to lose the services of Kyle Jarvis and Ryan McLaren who have both returned to their countries. Players like Liam Livingstone who have been on the radar of the English national setup must now take added responsibility and play leadership roles in the team.

Bowlers like Parkinson, Croft, and Parry will have to step up to support Mennie, Onions, and Faulkner in their efforts.

Lancashire will be coming into this tournament on the back of another disappointing Royal London Cup and we don’t think this T20 experience is going to be much better for them.

Strengths: Quality players like Livingstone, Jennings, Onions in the squad

Weaknesses: Unsettled squad, missing key players, poor white ball form

Our Prediction: 6th


Worcestershire

  • Full Name: Worcestershire Rapids
  • 2017 Result: 8th in North Group
  • Squad Changes:

    • Out: John Hastings
    • In: Callum Ferguson, Martin Guptill
  • Odds: 34.00

Three wins from 13 competed games last season outlines what a disaster it was for Worcestershire. In fact, apart from Worcestershire and Durham, all the other teams were pretty competitive with each other. It seemed that Worcestershire just did not belong in the same league.

This year, they have made two smart acquisitions in Martin Guptill and Callum Ferguson. The Kiwi opener is one of the most ferocious hitters of the new ball and we really think he could go nuts on the flat tracks that England offers.

Callum Ferguson was a little unlucky not to have played more international cricket but there is no doubting his pedigree. Not the most fluent T20 batsman in our opinion, but definitely someone who can offer a solid option to Worcestershire in the middle order.

John Hastings has retired and so his bowling will be missed by Worcestershire. The good thing about this county is that they have some good quality young players. Joe Clarke scored 381 runs last season, Daryl Mitchell is a promising all-rounder (208 runs + 5 wickets), Ross Whiteley provides the power (276 runs including 18 sixes), and D’Oliveira was pretty impressive with the ball.

This is definitely not the worst T20 side that we have seen in the competition and they could be moving up the table this year around. At the very least, Worcestershire will not be the whipping boys of the league that they were last year.

Strengths: Good overseas signings in Martin Guptill and Callum Ferguson, Good crop of young cricketers

Weaknesses: Bowling lineup is weak, T20 culture missing

Our Prediction: 7th


Durham

  • Full Name: Durham Jets
  • 2017 Result: 9th in North Group
  • Squad Changes:

    • Out: Keaton Jennings, Paul Coughlin, Graham Onions
    • In: Aiden Markram, Nathan Rimmington, Tom Latham
  • Odds: 26.00

Durham finished dead last in the previous season and has since seen some more talent drain out from the county. The problems posed to the county due to points deductions, financial bailouts, and other off-field stuff has resulted in a lot of unrest at the club.

Durham, though, owes a lot to Paul Collingwood for continuing to be the player that Durham can rally behind as he tried to hold the club together. There are a few good players in this side, though. Nathan Rimmington from Australia is set to play a part for Durham in this T20 series while Aiden Markram is expected to play a few Vitality T20 Blast matches before his departure too.

Tom Latham from New Zealand is expected to replace the South African towards the end of the season.

Durham’s best batsman last season was Paul Collingwood who defied age, custom, and everything else to score consistently across the tournament. The next best batsman on the team was Paul Coughlin who is going to be absent this year from Durham.

Durham must hope that its overseas imports are able to score enough runs to give it a shot to win some more matches. Graham Clark scored 272 runs last season and showed a bit of class but overall the batting lineup of Durham still looks perilously weak.

The bowling does not get much better either as it becomes a struggle to fin bowlers that will regularly challenge the opposition. Nathan Rimmington is a good medium pacer but he is far from his best. Pringle, Weighell, and McCarthy are the three other bowlers who will be required to shoulder the responsibility but neither of them is going to give any nightmares to the opposition.

Strengths: Paul Collingwood

Weaknesses: Weak batting, weak bowling

Our Prediction: 9th


South Group


Glamorgan

  • Full Name: Glamorgan
  • 2017 Result: 1st for South Group, Semi-finalists
  • Squad Changes:

    • Out: Jaques Rudolph, Will Bragg
    • In: Shaun Marsh, Usman Khawaja
  • Odds: 17.00

Glamorgan played 14 matches and won seven but lost only three. Four of their matches were no-results and that took the sheen off a little from an excellent campaign. No other team in the competition lost as few matches as they had.

Glamorgan’s campaign was headlined by brilliant batting performances from Colin Ingram, who is going to be captain of the T20 Blast side this year, and Jaques Rudolph. Ingram made 462 runs while Rudolph made 443. The scale of their contribution can be judged from the fact that there was only one other player who scored more than 200 runs in the team.

This year, though, Glamorgan will be without the services of Rudolph since he has retired. They have also named their two overseas players this year, Shaun Marsh and Usman Khawaja. The Aussie left-handers are very well regarded T20 players and have finally started to settle down in the international arena also. Their presence could be a big boost for Glamorgan.

Merchant de Lange will provide the pace bowling option for Glamorgan while being supported by Hogan and Meschade. Glamorgan’s bowling looks a little thin and we would like to see them recruit a quality T20 bowler for the Vitality Blast 2018. Their batting is also going to be dependent on Colin Ingram more than at any other time and if he has a poor tournament then Glamorgan may as well not show up.

Strengths: Batting strength thanks to the presence of Usman Khawaja, Shaun Marsh, and Colin Ingram

Weaknesses: Bowling depth thin and will have to depend on part-timers in every game

Our Prediction: 2nd


Surrey

  • Full Name: Surrey
  • 2017 Result: 2nd in the group, Quarter-Finalists
  • Squad Changes:

    • Out: Ravi Rampaul, Kumar Sangakkara
    • In: Aaron Finch, Nic Maddinson
  • Odds: 9.00

Is there a side in the Vitality Blast 2018 that is blessed with more talent than Surrey at the moment? We don’t think so. Unfortunately for Surrey, though, the pressure of winning a title is building. The team finished 2nd in the South Group last year by winning seven out of its 12 matches but then went on to lose in the knockout stages.

Surrey’s campaign will be led by skipper, Jade Derbach, who is going to have the services of players like Jason Roy, Aaron Finch, Nic Maddinson, Tom Curran, Sam Curran, Rikki Clarke, Ollie Pope, and Rory Burns. The biggest problem, perhaps, for Surrey is going to be dealing with international call-ups now that the two Curran brothers are also a part of the England set-up.

The addition of Morne Morkel as a Kolpak signing provides teeth to their bowling as well. Now, Surrey can reliably call on the likes of Morkel, Dernbach, Meaker, Borthwick, and the Curran brothers to help win them games.

This is a star-studded squad if there was any and anything less than a title win will be considered an opportunity missed. Surrey has all the bases covered in its squad and it just a matter of getting the combinations right so that the players can perform to their best.

Strengths: Squad overflowing with international quality talent, best opening pair in the competition

Weaknesses: Plenty of disruptions to the squad due to players being called up, pressure of expectations

Our Prediction: 1st


Hampshire

  • Full Name: Hampshire
  • 2017 Result: 3rd in the group, Semi-Finalists
  • Squad Changes:

    • Out: Michael Carberry, Will Smith, George Bailey
    • In: Mujeeb Ur Rahman, Colin Munro, Dale Steyn
  • Odds: 9.00

Hampshire had a good T20 Blast season in 2017 and managed to reach the semis as well. Their campaign was led by skipper James Vince who top scored with 542 runs as he led the team to seven victories from 14 matches, exactly the same as the table toppers from the South Group.

George Bailey and Michael Carberry, both of whom contributed with the bat will not be a part of the squad but Hampshire has managed to get some very useful replacements in their squad. Mujeeb Ur Rahman, the teenaged mystery-spinner from Afghanistan has been roped in, and there is huge expectation that he will be a game changer for the club.

Mujeeb has already had a successful IPL and will be looking to continue his rise in cricketing circles.

Colin Munro and Dale Steyn are also a part of the squad for the T20 season. Munro will enjoy the flat batting wickets in England and will be keen to add to his three T20 centuries already. Steyn, though, is returning from injury and it is unclear how effective he is going to be.

Hampshire also has two quality Kolpak signings in Rilee Rossow and Kyle Abbott to provide them with a formidable squad. Players like Alsop, Topley, and Wood are established performers in the side and players that Vince can bank on.

On paper, Hampshire has a side that should be in the running to win the title again or the very least make it to finals day. A lot will depend on the form that Munro and Mujeeb carry through the tournament but the Kolpak signings must contribute in a bigger manner as well this year.

Strengths: Batting is strong, Mystery spinner on board, Quality Kolpak signings

Weaknesses: Steyn returning from injury, two out of the three best batters from last season have been let go

Our Prediction: 3rd


Somerset

  • Full Name: Somerset
  • 2017 Result: 4th in the group, Quarter-Finalists
  • Squad Changes:

    • Out: Jim Allenby, Ryan Davies, Michael Leask
    • In: Corey Anderson
  • Odds: 17.00

There have been plenty of changes to the Somerset ahead of the season. They have a new coaching set-up, a new captain in Lewis Gregory, and some interesting new signings. Corey Anderson played at Somerset for a few matches last season before succumbing to back injury. His loss would have been one of the reasons that Hampshire was able to secure only six victories from 14 matches. He is returning to Somerset and is expected to be available for the entire season.

He has, however, not played any cricket over the last one year due to an injury so it will be interesting to see how he copes. Cameron Bancroft, one of the Aussies in the eye of the ball-tampering saga had joined Somerset as well but his contract was canceled as a result of his involvement.

Somerset’s batting was a real letdown in the last season. None from the squad crossed 300 runs and there was a distinct lack of power. Johann Myburgh was very impressive with the bat and will have a huge role to play this year again. Unfortunately, injury has ruled Matt Renshaw out of the competition as well and so Somerset could still to add another batsman of quality to its squad.

Roelof van der Merwe and Waller will play a crucial role in the bowling department. Spin has always played a major role in Somerset’s plans so we were surprised to see them let go of Leask after a good last season.

Things are looking a little unsettled for Hampshire ahead of the season and we are not very enthused about their chances this year.

Strengths: Strong spin department

Weaknesses: Batting strength a real concern, new untested skipper, lot of uncertainty at the club

Our Prediction: 9th


Sussex

  • Full Name: Sussex Sharks
  • 2017 Result: 5th in the group
  • Squad Changes:

    • Out: Steve Magoffin, Chris Nash
    • In: Rashid Khan, Tom Bruce
  • Odds: 10.00

Another club where plenty of changes have been taking place, perhaps one of Sussex’s smartest moves was to recruit Jason Gillespie as coach. One of the highly rated T20 coaches around the world, Gillespie has already succeeded in bringing the world number one T20 bowler to Sussex. Rashid Khan will be a part of the Sussex T20 squad for the first half and big things will be expected of him.

The addition of Rashid Khan gives Sussex one of the best bowling attacks in the competition. They have Jofra Archer, Rashid Khan, Chris Jordan, and Tymal Mills all of whom are among the most sought-after bowlers in T20 cricket.

Gillespie engineered the rise of the Adelaide Strikers in a similar manner by concentrating on the bowlers. The batting, though, looks like it needs a little work. Sussex has Luke Wright, a T20 legend in his own right but someone who prowess seems to have waned recently. Tom Bruce from New Zealand has also been roped in for the entire season and he is a good signing.

Bruce is a T20 specialist that is known to hit a long ball.

With Nash gone, Sussex is without its best run scorer. He scored 520 runs in the last T20 Blast while none of his team-mates were able to cross 250. An injury to Stiaan van Zyl, Sussex’s Kolpak signing, has emptied their batting coffers even more.

There is no doubt in our mind that Sussex will have to find some batsmen ahead of the competition otherwise even having the best bowling attack in the competition is not going to be enough.

Strengths: Bowling. Class attack filled with T20 specialists. Possibly the best attack in the competition

Weaknesses: Batting. The loss of Chris Nash is going to be massive for a club already struggling for runs

Our Prediction: 4th


Kent

  • Full Name: Kent Spitfires
  • 2017 Result: 6th in the group
  • Squad Changes:

    • Out: Matt Coles, Sam Northeast, Adam Ball, Hugh Bernard, Charlie Hartley
    • In: Adam Milne, Marcus Stoinis, Carlos Braithwaite
  • Odds: 17.00

Drama surrounding the Kent captaincy was what dominated the start of the season and that resulted in the loss Kent’s best batsman, Sam Northeast. Sam Billings has been made captain and he will be the one to lead Kent in the Vitality Blast 2018 this season.

Sam Billings has managed to convince Carlos Braithwaite to join the club for the opening four matches before being replaced by Marcus Stoinis. Braithwaite made his name at the world cup by smashing Ben Stokes for four sixes in the last over of the WorldT20 Final, but has struggled to live up to that reputation since. He showed glimpses of form in the IPL and that will be a positive that Kent will hope to build on.

The addition of Marcus Stoinis is much more relevant in our opinion because he is a world-class all-rounder. Stoinis has improved dramatically with the bat and is quite useful with the ball as well. Again, definitely, someone that Kent can bank on.

The absence of Sam Northeast from the side will put the focus on Joe Denly, Bell-Drummond, and Billings on the batting front. The three are very talented and will need to be at their best to propel Kent forward in this competition.

Adam Milne played seven matches for Kent last season and picked up 15 wickets. He bowls with genuine pace and can pick up wickets with the new ball or later at the death. Keeping him on board is the best thing that Kent could have done.

The bowling for Kent is a little shallow and the likes of Tredwell, Haggett, and Claydon will need to step up. Kent has been without a trophy for almost a decade now and we don’t think that is going to change this year either.

Strengths: Strong batting top order, quality signing in Marcus Stoinis

Weaknesses: Lack of depth in batting and bowling departments make them dependant on too few players

Our Prediction: 6th


Middlesex

  • Full Name: Middlesex
  • 2017 Result: 7th in the group
  • Squad Changes:

    • Out: Ryan Higgins, Harry Podmore
    • In: Ashton Agar, Dwayne Bravo
  • Odds: 13.00

Middlesex had one of the strongest batting lineups leading into last year’s T20 Blast but that did not do them much good. Brendon McCullum kept on failing and eventually the team won only five out of its 14 matches.

This year, Dawid Malan has been handed the captaincy and two all-rounders have been included in the squad. Ashton Agar from Australia and Dwayne Bravo from the West Indies have been chosen by the new T20 coach Daniel Vettori to change Middlesex’s fortunes around.

Middlesex will also be hoping to have Eoin Morgan available for as much as possible but his international commitments will prevent Morgan from playing a major role. There are other international quality players in the side as well. Paul Stirling is a formidable player to have on your side in T20 cricket, while Steven Finn, Toby Roland-Jones, and young fast bowler Tom Helm will lead the bowling attack.

The main reason that Middlesex struggled last season was that its batsmen did not score enough runs. Eoin Morgan was the top-scorer for the team with 319 runs with no one else from the squad crossing 300.

In a competition where players scored over 500 runs, this batting performance was unacceptable. We think that Middlesex has a decent bowling lineup and that has only been strengthened by the addition of Bravo and Agar.

We are not sure that the Middlesex batting is that much superior this time around, though.

Strengths: Strong bowling attack filled with international quality

Weaknesses: Misfiring batting lineup. The quality batsmen in its squad will be away on international duty for large parts of the tournament as well

Our Prediction: 8th


Essex

  • Full Name: Essex Eagles
  • 2017 Result: 8th in the group
  • Squad Changes:

    • Out: Kishen Velani
    • In: Adam Zampa, Peter Siddle
  • Odds: 13.00

Essex had a terrible T20 Blast season last time around winning just five matches and finishing second from the bottom. A look at the Essex side will show that they are a much better side than that. Players like Ravi Bopara, Ryan Ten Doeschate, Varun Chopra, Simon Harmer, and quality overseas signings were not enough for the team to qualify for finals day.

This time the management has identified its bowling as the weak link and chosen to add Zampa and Siddle to the squad. We like the Peter Siddle recruitment because he is a proven international quality bowler that is still doing well in T20 cricket even after being out of the national team running.

He is also a reliable enough bowler to plan around. Adam Zampa, on the other hand, is the staple leg-spin option that all T20 teams must have. Zampa started his career in an impressive manner but had a terrible lasts season of the Big Bash.

He is being brought in to take wickets during the middle overs although we think he might be more useful during the death overs.

Varun Chopra scored 427 runs for Essex last season but the fact that only four fifties were scored between the entire squad last season shows how badly Essex batted. Every single player must put in a better effort if Essex has to show a better result this time around.

We think Essex has too much quality to end up this low again but they don’t quite seem title contenders just yet.

Strengths: Experienced T20 side, settled lineup, strong batting unit on paper

Weaknesses: Inconsistent, aging superstars

Our Prediction: 5th


Gloucestershire

  • Full Name: Gloucestershire
  • 2017 Result: 9th in the group
  • Squad Changes:

    • Out: Brandon Gilmour, Patrick Grieshaber
    • In: Andrew Tye, Ryan Higgins
  • Odds: 21.00

It is a mark of the strength of the T20 Blast that the team that finished last in the South Group won just two matches less than the five teams above it. Gloucestershire would have been very disappointed with its batsmen last season.

Not a single batsman managed to reach 300 runs from the side. Michael Klinger’s involvement with the side was overshadowed by the tragic news that his wife had been diagnosed with cancer. He still managed to top-score with 281 runs, though, and his place in the side will be crucial again.

Whether he ends up playing a full role this year is unclear and will have a lot to do with the situation at his home.

One of the biggest pluses for Gloucestershire would be the availability of Andrew Tye for the entire season. Tye has been consistently one of the highest wicket-takers in every T20 league that he has taken part in and we have no reason to believe that the Vitality T20 Blast 2018 will be any different.

Tye joins a pretty decent bowling lineup to begin with at Gloucestershire. Howell, Payne, and Smith all had a decent season last year. If they continue to perform in the same vein then adding Tye to the mix could be the ‘X’ factor that Gloucestershire was looking for.

Batsmen like Cockbain, Howell, Mustard, and Taylor will have to have a great season, though.

This is a side which could easily have finished a couple of place above from where it did last year. It has improved its squad strength this year but we are don’t think they have done enough to be considered as serious title challengers.

A lot will depend upon how its stretched batting lineup is able to cope.

Strengths: Good bowling attack, Andrew Tye is one of the best T20 bowlers in the world

Weaknesses: Lack of power in the batting, have failed to add any major batsmen to the group

Our Prediction: 9th

Vitality T20 Blast 2018 Predictions & Betting Tips

The Vitality T20 Blast is going to be closely contested. Each side is capable of beating the other, although, we do find some sides to be more likely to make the knock-out stages.

From the North Group, we think that Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire, Warwickshire, and Northamptonshire are likely to qualify for the quarter-finals.

From the South Group, Surrey, Glamorgan, Sussex, and Hampshire are our picks to end up in the final four.

Vitality T20 Blast 2018 Winner Betting Tip

Surrey to win the Vitality T20 Blast 2018 9.50
Bet at Betway

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