Doing nothing to alleviate the north south divide tonight begins the T20 Vitality Blast. Yesterday we attempted some alternative predictions as to who would progress from the lands of Robin Hood and the Chuckle Brothers. Now we go back down south to the habitats of Mark Wright and Mick Jagger. All legends in their own special way. Now flex that spray tan, sip your champagne, climb in the combine harvester and jump aboard.
Peter Siddle loved bowling in a beanie so much he’s agreed to join the Eagles for the last eight group games. Throw in fellow Aussie Adam Zampa, veteran Neil Wagner, Boom Boom Zaidi and the dynamic duo of Porter and Harmer and Essex have a seriously nippy bowling unit. Worry will be whether Bopara can continue his glorious early season form into the T20 Vitality Blast.
Whitto’s Verdict: Tough one to call this. Ah go on then, because they’re my boyhood team, the Eagles will soar like a bird shaped kite. Seriously though, they will progress out of this group, before being well jel of Lancashire’s vajazzled red kite and too distracted by Joey Essex’s genius to concentrate further.
A Welsh team, featuring two Aussie overseas players? Think we’ve found the most unlikeable side of the tournament before a ball is bowled. Shaun Marsh and Usman Khawaja hope to bring a kangaroo hop to a county, who frequently show episodes of ‘Gavin and Stacey’ on the big screen.
Whitto’s Verdict: Who cares?
Another side who will struggle in this tough south group. Andrew Tye looks about as confident with ball in hand as a tailor with cat paws. (Beatrix Potter joke that one – so cultured here!) Michael Klinger will hope to smack the ball into space where his Star Trek comrades eagerly watch on. (And there’s a Star Trek one – where else can you get that sort of variety? TMS, have your cake and eat it)
Whitto’s Verdict: Best thing to come out of Gloucestershire? Certainly not this T20 side. Runners up to Glamorgan in last place. To put a positive spin on it.
Shahid Afridi-less, overseas pressure lands on the shoulders of New Zealander Colin Munro. Mind you even with Afridi, Hampshire couldn’t reach the final last year. Sam Northeast and James Weatherley, along with James Vince impressed in the One-Day Cup final. Dale Steyn may carry on banging them in, but only if he’s not selected for South Africa’s ODI series against Sri Lanka.
Whitto’s Verdict: Rilee Roussow’s had all his bad luck now hasn’t he? After his century versus Kent it seems the tide is turning. Hampshire are having a handsome season thus far. It will certainly continue.
Who would have thought Kent could reach the Royal London Final and win five of their county matches so far? Even with Darren Stevens being under par, the Spitfire are showing a fighting spirit, as robust as those young chaps who fought the Luftwaffe. Less moustaches, more muscles in this team though. Marcus Stoinis and Carlos Brathwaite are incredibly exciting prospects.
Whitto’s Verdict: Kent have been the team to watch thus far in 2018 and long may it continue. Shame they only have Brathwaite for the first four matches. They may get off to a flyer, but could crash and burn after he soars away.
Gone are the days when the boys clad in pink were referred to as the Panthers. Never did understand that one mind you. Can’t understand either how Middlesex could be as poor in the T20 Vitality Blast as they are in the county champ. Shaven headed Ashton Agar will hold up an end, whilst Dwayne Bravo should light up the Lord’s towering floodlights.
Whitto’s Verdict: May come down to answering some unanswerable questions, like ‘Is Steve Finn fit?’ ‘How angry does Eoin Morgan look wearing pink?’ ‘Is Steve Finn still fit?’
Over in the West Country, T20 doesn’t register much interest. Of course that’s absolutely nothing to do with the fact that they haven’t reached a semi-final since 2011 and have just Corey Anderson as the overseas attachment this year. In fact Somerset are the perennial bridesmaids, finishing runners up in a hat trick of years from 2009 to 2011. Can they be the bride this year?
Whitto’s Verdict: Nope. Somerset are lucky to be even invited to the wedding. Expect drunken dancing, before a tearful rendition of ‘Combine Harvester.’
Roar on the lions. Oh no wait, they aren’t called that anymore. In fact according to the BBC only three sides in the south group feature sexy names. Compared to all in the north. Whether that’s because the south is far more boring than the north, we cannot say. (Alright we can and they are) Someone who is certainly not boring is Aaron Finch who brings his world recording striking bat to The Oval. Fresh from smashing 172 off just 76 balls, here’s hoping Finch brings his A game.
Whitto’s Verdict: A side who are in terrific form in the county championship and will no doubt transform this into the T20 Vitality Blast. Particularly if Morkel shows.
Finally right down to the beach shores of Sussex and a young leg spinner who has shone on the world stage; Rashid Khan. Taking his wickets at 16 apiece for Afghanistan, we are excited to see how young Rashid progresses in English conditions. Match winner.
Whitto’s Verdict: Like a shark smelling blood, this Sussex side are primed for the kill. Archer, Jordan, Mills and Khan? A heck of a lot of bite! Fed up of my puns? Yep. Me too.
Fifteen years. Eleven different winners. Who will hold the Vitality Blast T20 trophy above their heads come mid-August? It’s certainly a lottery and with a plethora of games to play we should be in for an absolute treat. Keep up to date with the Blast via our twitter fed and watch out for various articles as we progress.
The countdown is on.