FLt20 South Group preview
Overseas players: Hamish Rutherford, Shaun Tait
T20 pedigree: Three visits to Finals Day but still yet to play in the showpiece match, Essex possess enough fire power to win this competition. Why they haven't is a bit of a mystery, especially considering their personnel.
Prediction: Rutherford and Tait reinforce a line-up boasting Owais Shah, Ryan ten Doeschate, Graham Napier and an internationally rejuvenated Ravi Bopara. They are one of the few sides whose hopes don't rest on the success of their overseas signings but given their topsy-turvy season so far, that might not necessarily be a good thing. Quarter-finals should be a minimum - outsiders for the title.
Overseas players: Sohail Tanvir
T20 pedigree: One of the few teams in the world that fully appreciate this form of the game and much of that is down to their skipper Dmitri Mascarenhas. The last three years have seen them win the competition twice, with a semi-final finish sandwiched in between.
Prediction: No county has defended the domestic Twenty20 title and it's doubtful that Hampshire will change that. Mascarenhas is fighting a continuing battle with injury but, provided they can manage his situation well, they could become only the tfourth team to make four Finals Day appearances in a row.
Overseas players: Brendan Nash, Vernon Philander
T20 pedigree: Quarter-finalists, winners, runners-up and semi-finalists from 2006 to 2009, inclusive, Kent have shown that a consistent method can garner results in the madness that is Twenty20.
Prediction: The wise heads are still there, but the bodies are older and perhaps even getting out of the group will be seen as a bonus. Darren Stevens continues to prove just how valuable a cricketer he is after his 44-ball hundred helped Kent chase down a world record 336 for victory in the YB40 against Sussex. Then again, with Philander, anything is possible.
Overseas players: Adam Voges, Kyle Mills
T20 pedigree: One win and one quarter-final place. Their focus in the last couple of years has been regaining their Division One status in the Championship and, with that achieved and consolidated, they will be keen to excel in the cup competitions.
Prediction: Their batting line-up shows that a change of game can elicit a change of form; much of the middle-order that has faltered in the Championship has excelled in the YB40. Dawid Malan, Joe Denly and Neil Dexter have enjoyed the freedom of limited-overs cricket, while youngsters like James Harris, the hard-hitting Adam Rossington and Paul Stirling - ranked the eighth-best ODI batsman in the world - can be game-changers.
Overseas players: Ricky Ponting, Glenn Maxwell
T20 pedigree: The inaugural champions, they reached the first four Finals Days but have failed to get out of the group on the last six occasions. Their financial clout always gives them a chance, particularly in this form, and the acquisition of Maxwell will excite.
Prediction: Would a win be so crazy? The romantic narrative that sport often throws up would surely be Surrey lifting the trophy at Edgbaston after a season of discontent, not to mention the tragedy of last year. Their fans and the rest of the country want to see just how good Jason Roy, Steven Davies, Jade Dernbach, Zafar Ansari and Matthew Dunn can be and this competition gives them the chance to show that the future at The Oval is bright.
Overseas players: Scott Styris, Dwayne Smith
T20 pedigree: Semi-finalists last year, Sussex were victors in 2009 with a well-balanced side, much of which has remained in place at Hove. Smith was man of the match against Somerset that year and his re-signing, along with that of Styris, bodes well.
Prediction: Luke Wright's consistency and the acquisition of Chris Jordan add some snap to their bowling attack, along with Chris Liddle providing variation with some skiddy left-arm seam. Will Beer's improvement with the bat should have him nailed-on as the spin option and gives Sussex the total package that should have them gunning for Finals Day.
Odds from bet365.com