Two teams with indifferent starts to their respective seasons will look to get their campaigns back on track when the leveller that is Twenty20 cricket rolls back to Canterbury, where the Kent Spitfires host the Sussex Sharks.
Kent have struggled in the County Championship this season, languishing at the bottom of Division Two without a win to their name thus far. Robert Key and co will therefore be hoping the Blast can provide a welcome distraction, although the lack of overseas signings could provide a hindrance with all the other counties investing in big names as the Blast looks set for a breakthrough campaign.
Sussex, meanwhile, can call upon Sri Lankan veteran Mahela Jayawardene for the first seven games of their campaign, with Australian George Bailey taking over thereafter. Fast bowler Steve Magoffin, as he has done for the Championship campaign, looks set to pair the two batsmen as an overseas name at Hove.
The Sharks started their Division One campaign strongly, with victories over the newly-promoted Hampshire and Worcestershire, but have since lost their way with back-to-back defeats in the upper echelon. In Luke Wright, Sussex have a newly-appointed T20 captain, with the former England all-rounder looking to take his side to their first short-format title since 2009.
It was Wright who prevailed in the subsequent fixture last year, making 85 from 61 balls on a tricky Canterbury surface as Sussex ran out winners by 35 runs, while Kent were triumphant by three in the reverse fixture at Hove.
An obvious choice, but with all-rounders such a significant part of the shorter format, Kent will be looking to Darren Stevens to get their campaign off to a good start. The 39-year old took 18 wickets in the 2014 tournament, whilst chipping in with three fifties with the bat, although it wasn’t enough to give the Spitfires a quarter-final berth.
In Luke Wright, Sussex can boast one of the top Twenty20 batsman in the country. Billed as an all-rounder, Wright’s bowling has been somewhat overshadowed by his ability with the willow, making two centuries (a feat matched only by Essex’s Tom Westley) in the competition last year, including an incredible knock of 153* from just 66 balls at Chelmsford.
Kent have named a 13-man squad for this clash, with David Griffiths included as the fast bowlers looks to continue his recovery from a tricep strain. Alex Blake and Adam Ball are also in a Spitfires squad with little injury worries. Promising youngsters Daniel Bell-Drummond, Sam Billings and Sam Northeast are set to feature heavily for the Spitfires.
The Sharks, contrastingly, have a quartet of fast bowlers sitting on the sidelines, with early season pace-setter Ajmal Shahzad part of a cluttered treatment room alongside Tymal Mills, James Anyon and Lewis Hatchett. Matt Prior also remains sidelined, while Chris Jordan is with England. Overseas star Mahela Jayawardene is in the squad.
Kent Spitfires Squad: Robert Key (captain), Adam Ball, Daniel Bell-Drummond, Sam Billings (wicketkeeper), Alex Blake, Mitchell Claydon, Matt Coles, Fabian Cowdrey , Joe Denly, David Griffiths, Calum Haggett, Darren Stevens, James Tredwell
Sussex Sharks Squad: Luke Wright (captain), Will Beer, Ben Brown (wicketkeeper), Craig Cachopa, Harry Finch, Mahela Jayawardene, Chris Liddle, Matt Machan, Steve Magoffin, Chris Nash, Stefan Piolet, Oliver Robinson, Michael Yardy
Weather and Conditions
The spring weather has become changeable over the past week or so, but those making the trip to Canterbury should be set for a dry game, with temperatures sitting pleasantly at 11 or 12 degrees during this night game.
Date: 15th May 2015
Ground: St Lawrence Ground, Canterbury
Umpires: Neil Bainton & Nigel Llong
Odds (SkyBet): Kent 4/5, Sussex 10/11
Natwest T20 Blast Stats (in association with Opta)
- – Luke Wright is one of four players, and the only Englishman, to hit three or more centuries in T20 cricket
- – Darren Stevens has hit 122 sixes in English T20s, 28 more than anyone else.
- – Six of the last seven T20s between these teams have been won by the team that batted first.