NatWest T20 Blast is back, starting this afternoon, when Brendon McCullum leads a Middlesex team coached by Dan Vettori against Michael Klinger’s Gloucestershire at Cheltenham – one of several matches which is already sold out.

There’s no shortage of star quality in the opening round of games, with England white-ball specialists such as Alex Hales, Jos Buttler and Chris Jordan all in action.

Among the overseas recruits are Mohammad Amir and Shahid Afridi, while there's the odd blast from the past - including Kevin Pietersen, who will play for Surrey later this month, and Andrew Flintoff, who will make his Sky commentary bow.

The Blast has been shifted to a block in the peak of the summer this season, and will now dominate county cricket until the quarter finals from August 22 to 25 – with Finals Day, again at Edgbaston, on Saturday September 2.


North Group


Birmingham Bears

Captain: Ian Bell.

Overseas: Jeetan Patel (NZ), Colin de Grandhomme (NZ). (Plus a third New Zealander, Grant Elliott, on a Kolpak).

One to Watch: Josh Poysden – leg-spinner whose white ball skills earned him selection for England Lions and North against South last winter.

Last Finals Day appearance: 2015 (semi finals).

First match: Worcestershire Rapids (away, Friday, 5.30pm).


Derbyshire Falcons

Captain: Gary Wilson.

Overseas: Matt Henry (NZ), Imran Tahir (SA).

One to Watch: A coach in their case – John Wright, New Zealander who was a popular overseas player for the club, and has since enjoyed considerable success with India and most relevantly the Mumbai Indians in the IPL.

Last Finals Day appearance: Never.

First match: Northants Steelbacks (away, Friday, 6.30pm).


Durham Jets

Captain: Paul Coughlin.

Overseas: Tom Latham (NZ).

One to Watch: Paul Collingwood – competitive instinct still formidable, even at 41.

Last Finals Day appearance: 2016 (runners-up).

First match: Lancashire Lightning (home, Friday, 6.30pm).


Lancashire Lightning

Captain: Steven Croft.

Overseas: Junaid Khan (Pak), Ryan McLaren (SA).

One to Watch: Jos Buttler – hasn’t been seen often in a Lancashire shirt recently, but set to be a regular over the next few weeks, and one of the big attractions of this year’s Blast.

Last Finals Day appearance: 2015 (Winners).

First match: Durham Jets (away, Friday, 6.30pm).


Leicestershire Foxes

Captain: Clint McKay

Overseas: McKay (Aus), Luke Ronchi (NZ).

One to Watch: Ronchi – Wicketkeeper and explosive batsman has the ability to revive Leicestershire’s T20 glory days – they are still the only team to have won the title three times.

Last Finals Day appearance: 2011 (Winners).

First match: Lancashire Lightning (away – Liverpool - Sunday, 2.30pm).


Northamptonshire Steelbacks

Captain: Alex Wakely.

Overseas: Rory Kleinveldt (SA), Tabraiz Shamsi (SA), Seekuge Prasanna (SL).

One to Watch: Ben Duckett – keen to make his point to England after slipping down the pecking order since making his Test debut in the winter.

Last Finals Day appearance: 2016 (champions).

First match: Derbyshire Falcons (home, Friday, 6.30pm).

Notts Outlaws

Captain: Dan Christian.

Overseas: Christian (Aus), Ish Sodhi (NZ).

One to Watch: Alex Hales – on a high after his stunning Lord’s destruction of Surrey in the Royal London One-Day Cup final.

Last Finals Day appearance: 2016 (semi finals).

First match: Yorkshire Vikings (away, Friday, 6.30pm).


Worcestershire Rapids

Captain: Joe Leach.

Overseas: John Hastings (Aus), Mitchell Santner (NZ).

One to Watch: Joe Clarke – inventive batsman who has been a Lions regular for the last 18 months, showing he is on England’s radar.

Last Finals Day appearance: Never.

First match: Birmingham Bears (home, Friday, 6.30pm).


Yorkshire Vikings

Captain: Tim Bresnan (deputising for Gary Ballance).

Overseas: Peter Handscomb (Aus), Shaun Marsh (Aus).

One to Watch: Tom Kohler-Cadmore – recent signing from Worcestershire who hit the fastest century in last year’s Blast.

Last Finals Day appearance: 2016 (semi finals).

First match: Notts Outlaws (home, Friday, 6.30pm).


South Group


Essex Eagles

Captain: Ryan ten Doeschate.

Overseas: Mohammad Amir (Pak).

One to Watch: Amir – fresh from his Champions Trophy triumph with Pakistan, he will give the Eagles real star quality.

Last Finals Day appearance: 2013 (semi finals).

First match: Surrey (home, Friday, 7pm – live on Sky).



Captain: Jacques Rudolph.

Overseas: Rudolph (SA) – plus fellow South Africans Colin Ingram and Marchant de Lange as Kolpaks.

One to Watch: Ingram – hit a record-equalling 29 sixes in last year’s competition to lead Glamorgan to a home quarter final.

Last Finals Day appearance: 2004 (semi finals).

First match: Hampshire (home, Friday, 6.30pm).



Captain: Michael Klinger.

Overseas: Klinger (Aus), Thisara Perera (SL).

One to Watch: Has to be Klinger – a run machine for the last four seasons.

Last Finals Day appearance: 2007 (runners-up).

First match: Middlesex (home – Cheltenham – 2.30pm, Friday).


Captain: James Vince.

Overseas: George Bailey (Aus), Shahid Afridi (Pak).

One to Watch: Mason Crane – 20-year-old leg-spinner who showed his star potential in two T20 international appearances for England last month.

Last Finals Day appearance: 2015 (semi finals).

First match: Glamorgan (away, Friday, 6.30pm).


Kent Spitfires

Captain: Sam Northeast.

Overseas: Adam Milne (NZ), Jimmy Neesham (NZ).

One to Watch: Sam Billings – after travelling the world as a T20 specialist this winter, would love to lead Kent to an overdue Finals Day return.

Last Finals Day appearance: 2009 (semi finals).

First match: Essex (home – Beckenham – Sunday, 3pm).



Captain: Brendon McCullum / Dawid Malan.

Overseas: McCullum (NZ), Tim Southee (NZ).

One to Watch: McCullum – linking up with Dan Vettori, his former New Zealand team-mate who has been appointed as a specialist T20 coach.

Last Finals Day appearance: 2008 (Winners).

First match: Gloucestershire (away – Cheltenham – Friday, 2.30pm).



Captain: Jim Allenby.

Overseas: Corey Anderson (NZ).

One to Watch: Roelof ven der Merwe – easily overlooked, but his combination of powerful hitting and off-spin is crucial to Somerset’s balance.

Last Finals Day appearance: 2012 (semi finals).

First match: Surrey (away, Sunday, 2.30pm).



Captain: Gareth Batty.

Overseas: Aaron Finch (Aus), Kumar Sangakkara (SL), Moises Henriques (Aus).

One to Watch: Kevin Pietersen – making a welcome return to the domestic scene after a two-year absence.

Last Finals Day appearance: 2014 (semi finals).

First match: Essex Eagles (away, Friday, 7pm – live on Sky).


Sussex Sharks

Captain: Ross Taylor.

Overseas: Taylor (NZ).

One to Watch: Tymal Mills – desperate to get back on the field after suffering back problems following his lucrative IPL stint, and could form a mouthwatering pace combination with Chris Jordan, Jofra Archer and George Garton.

Last Finals Day appearance: 2012 (semi finals).

First match: Glamorgan (home – Arundel – Sunday, 2.30pm).


Buy your tickets for all seven of Notts Outlaws’ NatWest T20 Blast North Group games – played between July 21 and August 18 – here.


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