The 2020 T20 Blast is underway! Well, sort of. Out of nine matches on the first two days of the competition, only one match produced a result – Lancashire triumphed over Durham by 27 runs – as the cruel British weather wrecked the party.
Here’s hoping the action picks up soon, and to gee up the excitement levels we’ve picked out a few storylines for you to keep tabs on as the tournament progresses.
What now for Worcestershire?
The Rapids have been a leading force in the Blast over the last two years; in 2018 they took home the trophy for the first time in their history, and in 2019 they succumbed to a final-ball loss to Essex to finish runners-up. Leading them at back-to-back Finals Days was the inspirational Moeen Ali, batting in the top order and not shying away from taking the new ball with his economical offies.
The availability of the talismanic all-rounder – or lack of – is a key issue for Worcestershire as he takes on his England white-ball commitments, and their plans are further complicated by the loss of Pat Brown, who has taken 48 wickets across the last two Blast campaigns. The slower-ball merchant is currently a reserve in England’s T20I bubble for the Pakistan series, leaving Worcestershire without their ace-in-the-hole at the death at this moment in time.
The Alex Hales Show
He remains out of the England picture, but in Alex Hales Notts Outlaws possess one of the best T20 batsmen in the world, someone capable of almost single-handedly driving them to the title. When they won the tournament back in 2017, Hales’ 507-run tally came at a whopping strike rate of 204.43, and in last year’s 10-wicket quarter-final romp over Middlesex he smashed an unbeaten 83 off 47 balls. The 31-year-old had a more than decent winter on the franchise circuit too, most notably finishing as the second-highest run-scorer in the Big Bash. Notts are favourites to win the whole thing, and Hales is a massive reason why.
Ravi takes his talents to South Beach
Skipper Simon Harmer hit the winning runs in last year’s final, but the man at the other end was just as pivotal in dragging Essex to the finish line. Ravi Bopara’s unbeaten 36 from 22 balls proved key in delivering Essex their first Blast title, a fitting conclusion to a campaign in which he had thrived as the Eagles’ finisher. It also proved to be one of the final acts of Bopara’s 18-year Essex career as he later signed for Sussex, another side tipped to make their way to the latter stages of the competition. The 35-year-old was only able to muster 1 on his debut against Surrey on Friday, but it shall be intriguing to see whether he can take the Sharks to another level.
Laurie Evans’ homecoming
One of the most notable transfer stories this summer has been Laurie Evans’ move from Sussex to Surrey, the club he came up the ranks at. Having joined the London club on loan earlier this month, it initially seemed that Evans would turn out in the Blast for Sussex before making a permanent move to The Oval, but it wasn’t to be, with Surrey now able to bolster their ranks with the leading run-scorer in the 2018 Blast. “From a club point of view, we’re obviously disappointed,” was Sussex head coach Jason Gillespie’s take after losing Evans from his Blast plans. With no Ollie Pope to call upon, the signing of Evans – who has played in numerous franchise tournaments – has been perfectly timed by Surrey.
The Irish influx
The coronavirus pandemic has led to a host of T20 overseas deals being scrapped, but Ireland – no longer able to count their players as locals on the county circuit – have three representatives all worth keeping an eye on. Paul Stirling is an astute signing from Northamptonshire, particularly with his match-winning 142 against England earlier this month still living large in the memory. Andrew Balbirnie was his partner-in-crime that day and Glamorgan have landed his signature. Gareth Delany found less success in the three-match ODI series, but his big-hitting and handy leg-spin will be of use to three-time winners Leicestershire.