Holders Worcestershire Rapids launch their defence of the Vitality Blast against Notts Outlaws on Thursday night, live on Sky Sports Cricket.
We take a closer look at both the Rapids and the Outlaws, plus all the other teams battling for supremacy in the North Group this season:
Notts vs Worcs
July 18, 2019, 6:45pm
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Overseas signings: Jeetan Patel (New Zealand), Ashton Agar (Australia).
The Narrative: Fired by the unique incentive of playing in Finals Day on their home ground, the Bears will seek to bounce back from an inconsistent 2018 campaign when they failed to escape the group.
Star Man: Olly Stone – the England paceman, fit again after a long injury lay-off, will be looking to send plenty of stumps flying.
Mr Consistency: Jeetan Patel -The spinner’s four mid-innings overs – accurate, aggressive and full of variation – have terminally trussed up the innings of countless opponents.
Under the radar: Matt Lamb – An academy product whose first-team opportunities have been limited, but has the strokes and the power to make a major impact in the Blast.
Killer stat: 29 Bears players have scored half-centuries in T20 cricket, with Ian Bell having done so most times – 16.
Overseas signings: Logan van Beek (New Zealand).
The Narrative: After Kane Richardson withdrew to focus on the World Cup, Derbyshire turned to another Aussie paceman in Billy Stanlake, only for injury to rule him out. It means Derbyshire will go into the Blast with only one overseas player.
Star Man: Matt Critchley – The 22-year-old is capable of ‘X factor’ performances as he showed last season when he smashed 22 off the final over against Yorkshire at Chesterfield.
Mr Consistency: Wayne Madsen – His 526 runs at an average of 48 is a Derbyshire record and last season, he scored 328 runs with three more half-centuries. He has also opened the bowling in some matches with his off-spin.
Under the radar: Leus du Plooy – The 24-year-old South African could be one to watch judging by his 75 off 37 balls in the tied Royal London One-Day Cup game against Yorkshire in April. His left-arm spin provides the Falcons with another bowling option.
Killer stat: Derbyshire have only qualified for the T20 quarter-finals twice and are the only county never to make Finals Day.
Overseas signings: Cameron Bancroft (Australia), D’Arcy Short (Australia).
The Narrative: Durham were one of the surprise packages in the Vitality Blast last season, finishing second in the North Group as they reached the quarter-finals, only to be defeated by Sussex, and should be in contention for the knockout stage again.
Star Man: D’Arcy Short – The powerful 28-year-old was the leading run scorer and Big Bash Player of the Year for the second season in a row with the Hobart Hurricanes.
Mr Consistency: Chris Rushworth – His economy rate of 7.58 across 13 Blast games, bowling in the powerplay highlighted Rushworth’s importance to the team. There are not many more reliable bowlers in the county game.
Under the radar: Ben Raine – Durham will likely not see a great deal of Ben Stokes during the Blast, but in Raine – who has particularly impressed with the ball since his return to the Riverside – they have a solid replacement.
Killer stat: Only one Durham player has scored a century in T20 cricket – Paul Collingwood in 2017 against Worcestershire at New Road.
Overseas signings: James Faulkner (Australia), Glenn Maxwell (Australia).
Narrative: Lancashire, on paper, have all bases covered – power in bucketloads with the bat, bowling options aplenty, gun fielders galore and lots of T20 experience. Can they put it all together and secure a second crown?
Star man: Glenn Maxwell – The Aussie is ranked by the ICC as the world’s best all-rounder in T20 cricket and the third best batsman. His off-spin bowling was heavily utilised in the early-season Royal London One-Day Cup.
Mr Consistency: Steven Croft – Captained the side to their only title so far in 2015 and made 148 consecutive career T20 appearances for the Lightning between June 2006 and last July, an English record.
Under the radar: Richard Gleeson – The 31-year-old ex-Northants quick has a solid record in T20 – 34 wickets in 31 appearances – and his extra pace could be useful on tired Old Trafford pitches.
Killer stat: No other county has won more than Lancashire’s 104 T20 matches since the format’s inception in 2003.
Overseas signings: None
The Narrative: Leicestershire reached the quarter-finals of the competition two seasons ago, losing at Glamorgan, but there are question marks over the current squad’s strength in depth and quality.
Star Man: Colin Ackermann – A fine striker of the ball who also bowls off-spin well enough to have 30 T20 wickets to his name.
Mr Consistency: Mark Cosgrove – Coming into this year’s competition, the South Australian has hit 1,241 T20 runs for Leicestershire – only current head coach Paul Nixon (1,423) has scored more.
Under the radar: Callum Parkinson – His leg-spinning twin brother Matt of Lancashire may be better known, but the left-arm spinner took 15 wickets for the Foxes in last season’s T20.
Killer stat: Six Leicestershire batsmen have hit centuries in T20, but only once has an opposing batsman scored a hundred against them – Alviro Petersen, for Lancashire, at Grace Road in 2016.
Overseas signings: Dwaine Pretorius (South Africa), Faheem Ashraf (Pakistan).
The Narrative: Northamptonshire’s great success between 2015 and 2017 came crashing down last season. The bowling attack was the biggest weakness and the signings of two internationals should help correct that shortcoming.
Star Man: Richard Levi – His then-record 45-ball hundred for South Africa may be a fading memory but Levi remains one of the most destructive hitters in the game, capable of winning a game by himself.
Mr Consistency: Alex Wakely – An underrated power hitter with a touch game to match, Wakely has been a reliable source of runs for many seasons and will be eager to make a big contribution back in the ranks.
Under the radar: Ricardo Vasconcelos – His quality in the County Championship has been well demonstrated over the past year but he has potential to match the touch and range of strokes that fellow left-hander Ben Duckett used to provide for Northants.
Killer stat: There have been four T20 centuries by Northamptonshire players, two by members of the current squad: Richard Levi and Josh Cobb.
Overseas signings: Dan Christian (Australia).
The Narrative: Notts can’t wait to turn their back on a poor red-ball season and resume their quest for limited-overs glory. The white-ball specialists have reached the knockout stages in eight of the past nine years and should have Alex Hales and Harry Gurney available throughout for another tilt at reaching Finals Day.
Star Man: Alex Hales – One of the cleanest white-ball strikers in world cricket, Hales will welcome the opportunity to show that his enforced lay-off hasn’t diminished his talents. His flying starts will be invaluable to the Outlaws.
Mr Consistency: Harry Gurney – The left-armer further furnished his reputation as an expert death bowler who delivers under pressure as he helped the Melbourne Renegades to the Big Bash title in the winter before joining up with Kolkata in the IPL.
Under The Radar: Matt Carter – Ish Sodhi’s absence this year should give regular opportunities to the off-spinner, who has already impressed in fleeting red-ball and 50-over appearances.
Killer Stat: Notts reached an aggregate of 100 victories in domestic T20 cricket last season and Samit Patel – who was there when the competition started in 2003 – has featured in 93 of those wins.
Overseas signings: Martin Guptill (New Zealand – available for 11 of the Blast group games plus any quarter-final or Finals Day if Worcestershire qualify).
The Narrative: After losing several quarter-finals, the confidence gained from the 2018 final win over Sussex was massive and there is a belief in the squad that they can make a strong defence of their title.
Star Man: Pat Brown – the leading wicket-taker in the competition last summer with 31 victims and only injuries prevented him from being picked up by various franchises during the winter. Now fit again and looking to repeat last year’s heroics.
Mr Consistency: Ben Cox – Time and time again the wicketkeeper-batsman has been the player for the big occasion, as demonstrated with his two man-of-the-match awards on 2018 Finals Day.
Under the radar: Brett D’Oliveira – His leg-spin bowling, ability to score quickfire runs and brilliant fielding make him an invaluable member of the side.
Killer stat: Martin Guptill scored the second fastest ever domestic T20 century last summer, off 35 balls against Northamptonshire Steelbacks at Wantage Road.
Overseas signings: Nicholas Pooran (West Indies – available for the first five games).
Narrative: With only two Finals Day appearances to their name (2012, 2016), the Vikings have underachieved in this format. A side who posted 260-4 against Northants two summers ago – English T20’s highest team total – should be doing far better.
Star man: David Willey – England commitments have ceased for now, so the all-rounder with star quality and a history of taking the Blast by storm should be available for the entire competition.
Mr Consistency: Adam Lyth – The left-handed opener should become Yorkshire’s all-time leading T20 run-scorer during 2019. With 2,240 to his name, he is only 20 behind coach Andrew Gale.