The English Twenty20 competition has had yet another re-brand, and it returns this year as the NatWest T20 Blast, getting underway on 16 May.
It may not boast as many world class talents as the Indian Premier League or the Australian Big Bash, but there will be plenty of good players on display over the competition and a lot of entertaining matches.
The competition runs right the way from 16 May to 23 August when the semi-finals and final will be played out at Edgbaston, Birmingham. The winners will then go on to face the shining lights of the IPL and Big Bash in the Champions League.
Below we take a look at some of the players that will star over the newly created NatWest T20 Blast, hoping to lead their teams to finals day.
The Somerset wicket-keeper-batsman is designed for the shortest form of the game, as he has shown domestically and on the international scene with England.
Although his career with England tailed off, he is certainly still a destructive force on the county scene. He proved those who doubted him wrong last year when he finished as the highest run-scorer in this tournament (then called the FriendsLife T20).
His Somerset team are extremely reliable performers in limited overs cricket and that, in part, is down to Keiswetter. It would be a big surprise if he were not to be among the top run-scorers again this year.
Essex took a big risk when they signed the unruly New Zealand international. He has been suspended by the Kiwis on more than one occasion in the past for drinking and substance abuse.
His talent is unquestioned, though, especially in limited-over cricket when he is a destructive force. Essex's Chelmsford ground is one of the smallest in the country and the burly New Zealander will be clearing the boundary plenty of times there this season.
However, his reputation will proceed him, Scyld Berry wrote in the Daily Telegraph when Ryder's signing was announced:
It has been a good week for the owners of bars and night-clubs in Chelmsford. Jesse Ryder is riding into town! They may have to beef up their security of course—a few more bouncers on the doors—but overall Essex’s signing for this season should be profitable all round.
The Aussie may only be turning up mid-way through the season, but Hampshire will be willing to wait, given his performances in the IPL so far.
Maxwell is currently the leading run-scorer in the Indian event; he has also hit the most sixes and has the highest strike rate. The feeling is that if he can perform like that in that competition, then he will be even more dangerous when he ventures to English shores.
Hampshire fans will be counting down the days until the man known as "Big Show" arrives on the south coast. As will his team-mates; current Hampshire batsman James Vince cannot wait to be reunited with Maxwell, having played with him in 2012, per Sky Sports:
He's a great lad to have around because he's passionate about his cricket and backs himself 100 per cent to produce match-winning performances—and he does. For someone who's 25 he's played a lot of Twenty20 cricket—he's had experience at different counties as well as the Big Bash and IPL.
The 30-year-old from Pakistan had been something of a global journeyman all his career, until he finally made his breakthrough with Northamptonshire in the T20 competition. Azharullah took 27 wickets—six more than anyone else—at an incredible average of just 12.62.
He does not play regularly in the other forms of the game for Northants, but he is set to be unleashed on the NatWest T20 bash again this year. If he can perform to even half the standard he did last year, then he will be a fabulous asset for thee Steelbacks.
The Australian quick is one of the best test bowlers on the planet, and whilst his T20 experience is not vast, he has the quality to make a real difference for Nottinghamshire this season.
The 29-year-old is very reliable in bowling line and length, which can be a hindrance in this format, but his aggressive nature means he will not just serve up what the batsman is looking for.
Siddle could prove to be a great option both at the start of an innings, and at the death. As Malcolm Conn notes, he has already been at big hit for Notts in the longer form of the game:
Khan turned out for Lancashire as a 21-year-old three years ago in this competition, and he performed admirably. He showed his wicket-taking ability as he removed 12 batsmen in eight games. Since then, he has picked up vast international experience with Pakistan in all forms of the game and will return to Old Trafford a much-improved bowler.
He is a left-armer with pace that many County Championship batsmen will not be used to and he will cause a lot of good players problems.
All stats courtesy of ESPNcricinfo.com
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