Summer is well and truly upon us, with glorious sunshine gracing cricket grounds across the country, it means T20 cricket is back! The shorter format of the game begins its freshly named tournament, the ‘Vitality Blast’, which is hoping to attract thousands of supporters across the summer.
It is certainly hoped the crowds are going to flood into the ground for an East Midlands versus West Midlands derby between Notts Outlaws and Birmingham Bears, the perfect way for both teams to get them off the mark in what has the potential to be a very tight North group.
It’s an opening round that pits the current reigning champions, Notts, against last years runners-up, Birmingham Bears. The Outlaws will be looking to emulate their performance at Final’s Day, whereas Birmingham Bears will be looking to show how far they have come since last year and be victorious over the defending champions.
Both of these teams showed how talented their squads just are by both reaching the final last season and everyone will be anticipating that they can both fire and give an incredible spectacle, which would be a great advertisement for cricket and especially T20 cricket.
It may be suggested that T20 cricket and ‘Vitality Blast’ is under a certain pressure to show its success after the debates around the new tournament proposed by the ECB – ‘The Hundred’. It could show that both tournaments can be a success, or even the Blast can be the competition which is a staple for the summer and the new format may not be needed at all.
Whatever conclusions come from this seasons competition, it is no doubt that an entertaining Blast makes for an entertaining cricket season so these two teams will be looking to kickstart their search for silverware early and light up Trent Bridge.
In Notts Outlaws side, Steven Mullaney is one of the obvious stand-out players in the team and was an integral part of the win last season after giving various match winning performances with both bat and ball. After a recent call up to the England Lions as captain of the side, he will going into the Blast with a confidence boost and be aspiring to display as much ability as last year. If Mullaney can contribute to contribute, the Outlaws should continue to have success.
For Birmingham Bears, Ed Pollock emerged last season as remarkable talent at the top of the order, as he showed many times for the Bears. After making 60 (from 44 balls) on debut, he again showed immense talent in the semi-final against Glamorgan, helping the Bears into the final. He plays in a fearless way, and goes out with intent from ball one, something which the Bears may have seen to been lacking in their batting. Pollock provided a fresh, younger presence at the top of the order when he replaced Ian Bell, which has aided to the rejuvenation of the team, so if he can replicate those eye-catching performances he will put Birmingham in a very strong position.
Alex Hales remains on England Duty, however Jake Ball has been released by the ECB so that addition to the Outlaws squad will give more strength. Dan Christian has prided his squad in being in majority similar to the squad that won the title last year, and he is proud of that consistency.
Notts Outlaws Squad: Dan Christian (c), Tom Moores (wkt), Jake Libby, Chris Nash, Steven Mullaney, Riki Wessels, Harry Gurney, Luke Fletcher, Matt Carter, Samit Patel, Jake Ball, Ish Sodhi, Billy Root.
Sam Hain returning from England Lions is an obvious boost to the Bears side. With the bowling department proving currently very strong, it could be a dilemma on which bowlers to play, with the likes of Olly Hannon-Dalby, Henry Brookes, Keith Barker, and Olly Stone, they all have the skills and strength to get into the side.
Birmingham Bears Squad: TBC
Birmingham Bears – LWWWW
Notts Outlaws – WWWLW
Weather and Conditions
The current tropical weather looks set to continue, with high temperatures and plenty of sun, even as the night draws closer.
Trent Bridge has always been a ground to favour the batsmen, with pitches suiting the big-hitters and usually short boundaries square of the wicket. A plethora of runs can be expected to be scored in the game, providing ample entertainment, especially with the calibre of batting talent on show.
Date: 4th July 2018
Ground: Trent Bridge. Nottinghamshire
Odds (Bet365): Notts Outlaws 4/6, Birmingham Bears 6/5