A new era arrives for Leicestershire on Friday as the Foxes play their first game under the new permanent floodlights at Grace Road, with 2015 runners up Northamptonshire the visitors as the Natwest T20 Blast gets underway.
The match pits two sides who have shared four titles between them, flying the flag for the smaller counties while plenty wish them out of existence.
Leicestershire were the underdog achievers of the early years of Twenty20, before the name even proved too long, winning the title in 2004 and 2006, adding a third title in 2011, a feat as yet unmatched, Hampshire the only other side to have won the competition twice.
Northants meanwhile have picked up that baton in recent years, surprising everyone to lift the trophy in 2013 whilst falling at the final hurdle last August, beaten by Lancashire in the Edgbaston final.
The Foxes have struggled in recent years, not making a quarter final since their 2011 triumph, but have enjoyed a resurgence in the County Championship so far this season. They also boast Kevin O’Brien returning for the competition alongside Pakistan’s Umar Akmal.
Northamptonshire may have lost David Willey to Yorkshire, but the England man may not be as big a miss as many will expect, having played little part in the group stages last summer, before his starring role in the quarter and semi-finals.
Sri Lankan Sekkurage Presana may arrive as an unknown quantity but Leicestershire will already be aware of his power, the all-rounder smashing 71 off 34 balls for Northants second XI against their Leicestershire counterparts, including five consecutive sixes in one over.
Neil Dexter was one of a trio of experienced signings by Leicestershire in the winter and they have certainly had a promising impact on the Championship side, something Dexter will be looking to take into the T20, his all-round presence offering Leicestershire a balance they have perhaps been lacking in recent years.
Seekkuge Prassana is a name not many had heard of when Northamptonshire announced his signing at the beginning of April, and whilst Alex Wakely described the signing as a punt, the Sri Lankan all-rounder could prove a canny signing, with a strike rate of almost 170, whilst leg spinners are always dangerous in t20.
Mark Pettini will captain Leicestershire in white ball cricket this season, with Championship captain Mark Cosgrove not included in the 13 man squad. Kevin O’Brien links up with brother Niall once more, whilst Umar Akmal is the Counties second overseas signings.
Leicestershire squad: Mark Pettini (c), Umar Akmal, Mark Cosgrove, Neil Dexter, Lewis Hill, Clint McKay, Jigar Naik, Kevin O’Brien, Niall O’Brien, Ben Raine, James Sykes, Rob Taylor, Tom Wells.
Nine of the 11 that got Northants to last year’s final are included in the opening squad for this season, with Steven Crook and Rob Keogh having recently returned from injury and Seekkuge Prassana having arrived this week to join the club for the entire t20 campaign.
Northamptonshire squad: Alex Wakely (c), Muhammed Azharullah, Josh Cobb, Steven Crook, Ben Duckett, Rob Keogh, Rory Kleinveldt, Richard Levi, Seekkuge Prassana, Adam Rossington, Ben Sanderson, Olly Stone, Graeme White.
Weather and conditions
It’s certainly not going to be a scorcher to kick start the T20 summer on Friday night, but it should at least remain dry throughout the evening, even if a cloudy evening feels a bit chilly with temperatures in the mid-teens.
Date: Friday 20th May 2016
Venue: Fisher County Ground, Leicester
Umpires: Michael Gough, Richard Kettleborough
Odds: Leicestershire 10/11, Northants 10/11