NatWest T20 Blast May 14, 2015

Overseas influx for the biggest Blast yet

Never has the Twenty20 Blast attracted such a wide array of overseas talent. From Brendon McCullum to Chris Gayle and Shahid Afridi to Glenn Maxwell, the Blast's imports are the envy of T20 leagues the world over, the IPL apart
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Nick Compton joins Dan Norcross for the launch of our new magazine show on the NatWest Blast

Derbyshire
Martin Guptill and Tillakaratne Dilshan will provide power and panache at the top of Derbyshire's order, although the two do not overlap. Yet Derbyshire's most significant signing could be Nathan Rimmington, who has bowled incisively with the new ball and frugally at the death in the Big Bash.

Durham
Durham only have one overseas player, but what he lacks in glamour John Hastings makes up for in effectiveness. For bustling, canny bowling allied to powerful late-order bashing, Hastings was named Melbourne Stars' Most Valuable Player in last winter's Big Bash League and took nine wickets in Durham's recent Championship defeat to Middlesex.

Essex
In the Championship, Jesse Ryder has become more valuable as a nagging swing bowling than belligerent batsman. But in front of the febrile Chelmsford crowd, the T20 Blast should provide the perfect stage for Ryder's batting destructiveness: it was only last year that he scored a 46-ball ODI century. He will have company from across the Tasman as, fresh from conceding just 6.94 an over in the Big Bash, a 32-year-old Shaun Tait seeks out the pace and toe-crushing yorkers that have made him such an intoxicating sight.

Glamorgan
The World Cup highlighted the supreme value of high-class left-arm pace bowlers in limited overs cricket, and Glamorgan will feel they have one in Wayne Parnell, one of a trio of South African imports. Jacques Rudolph provides class and solidity opening the batting - he averaged 60.33 in the Blast last year - while the Kolpak Colin Ingram offers brutal middle-order hitting.

Gloucestershire
Australian-born but with two English parents, Peter Handscomb made his name four months ago: coming in at 8 for 2 after a golden duck for Kevin Pietersen, he bludgeoned 103 not out from 64 balls to help Melbourne Stars beat Perth Scorchers in the Big Bash. His hitting skills will be complimented by Michael Klinger's nous from June.

Hampshire
It somehow wouldn't be the Blast without Yasir Arafat popping up. Onto his sixth county, Arafat offers nippy, skiddy bowling and a cool temperament: in a Super Over in the 2014 Big Bash, he conceded just a solitary run. Jackson Bird's shoulder and neck injuries have undermined Hampshire's start to the season, but the hope is he might be fit to play next month. Fidel Edwards (a Kolpak) is providing cover, though whether he retains his zip aged 33 is unclear.

Kent
In the county where Ukip leader Nigel Farage stood in the general election, albeit unsuccessfully, no overseas players have been signed this season - despite the club making a significant profit in 2014. Many members are known to be aghast.

Lancashire
James Faulkner is a cricketer that could have been designed for the T20 age: boasting one of the game's most formidable throwing arms, venomous left-arm pace and - as England know too well - brutal hitting ability.

Leicestershire
When Leicestershire signed Grant Elliott some were nonplussed. No longer. The 84 not out that took New Zealand to their first World Cup final was an innings brimming with skill, judgement and, as he showed by lofting Dale Steyn over long-on to secure victory, no little power. The belligerent Umar Akmal provides cover for four games - perhaps another indication of Leicestershire's determination to engage the local British Asian population. The Australian Clint McKay is an outstanding white ball bowler.

Middlesex
After another poor T20 campaign in 2014, Middlesex might have hoped for a more illustrious overseas signing than Joe Burns. He played two Tests for Australia against India last winter but has less pedigree in the shortest format. The additional signing of South African pace bowler Kyle Abbott for the first half of the season will have rallied optimism, but the T20 final in 2008 seems a long time ago.

Northamptonshire
For their first six games, Northamptonshire will have Shahid Afridi's bravado with bat in hand to excite, though his canny legspin, which has yielded just 6.50 an over during a career of 78 T20 internationals, will probably prove more valuable. The South African Rory Kleinveldt is a dependable new ball bowler.

Chris Gayle's roar will resound around Taunton © BCCI

Nottinghamshire
Darren Sammy's violent hitting, allied to skilful medium pace, electric fielding and all-round affability should make him a fine signing until CPL commitments intrude. Ben Hilfenhaus' ability to swing the new ball should also prove an asset.

Somerset
Those occupying the swanky new flats overlooking the Taunton ground might soon have cause to take out extra insurance. Chris Gayle, who almost played for Somerset three years ago, has finally made his way to the West Country, expecting to add to his world record 14 T20 hundreds. His successor is scarcely less destructive: Corey Anderson scored a 36-ball ODI century last year, and also offers eminently useful left-arm pace. Another left-arm quick, Sohail Tanvir, could be among the tournament's shrewdest signings: bowling off the wrong foot, he has a devilish yorker from wide of the crease.

Surrey
Catch him while you can. Wahab Riaz's two-game stint will be over and done within 24 hours, but no one who witnessed his intoxicating spell against Australia in the World Cup will want to miss it. The Aussie allrounder Moises Henriques, a brawny ball-striker and fine exponent of cutters, will succeed him. And don't forget Kumar Sangakkara, fresh from four consecutive World Cup centuries.

Sussex
Sangakkara's great friend Mahela Jayawardene will grace county cricket for the first time. They face each other at picturesque Arundel on June 14. After a seven-game stint Jayawardene will be replaced by George Bailey: having built a career clearing huge Australian boundaries, Hove's could seem a paltry challenge.

Warwickshire
The unremitting aggression of Brendon McCullum's batting will terrify county bowlers when he joins Warwickshire after New Zealand's series in England; whether he brings in bigger crowds will be almost as intriguing as watching him play. However well he does, McCullum would do well to match the offspinner Jeetan Patel's impact. Varying his pace, flight and trajectory with magnificent skill, he took 23 wickets for last season's champions while yielding just 5.62 runs an over.

Worcestershire
Whether Saeed Ajmal 2.0, with his remodelled action, can flummox county batsmen as he did last year, will go a long way to determining Worcestershire's prospects. Before he arrives next month Worcestershire have another mystery spinner who has suffered from the ICC's clampdown on throwing, Sachithra Senanayake. The Kiwi Colin Munro was Worcestershire's second top scorer in the competition last year.

Yorkshire
An injured hamstring means that Aaron Finch may miss the whole Blast, though Yorkshire could yet sign-up a replacement. In the meantime they will have to make do with another brawny Australian: "The Big Show" Glenn Maxwell (though he hates the nickname). Maxwell has endured a grim IPL and a T20 average of 21.73 is testament to his inconsistency, but no one who saw his exploits in the World Cup would doubt his penchant for batting destruction.

Tim Wigmore is a freelance journalist and author of Second XI: Cricket in its Outposts

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • dummy4fb on May 15, 2015, 19:53 GMT

    Forget the international stars. Most casual English fans have hardly heard of the majority of them, no matter how stunning their exploits for their home nations or other franchises. I can guarantee that you'd sell more tickets at Headingley if Yorkshire could boast Joe Root rather than Glenn Maxwell.

  • kam_uk on May 15, 2015, 11:53 GMT

    This is unlikely to be the success that is anticipated. 1M attendance between 140 odd games - average 7000 attendance per game is nothing compared to the stadia filling IPL or Big Blast. ECB have again played it safe and left it to the counties. The tournament should have been franschised based and timed around the IPL and CPL to attract the stars. Also like the IPL they should allow at least 4 overseas stars per team, there would be a greater sense of anticipation about seeing players like De Villiers, Boult, Kohli, Yuvraj, Gayle, Steyn, Wahab, Dilshan, McCullam, KP, Afridi etc . Getting a few of these players and that for only a handful of games is unlikely to get the turnstiles rolling in overdrive!

  • TheScot on May 15, 2015, 9:10 GMT

    So this is what an English 'Blast' looks like? 80% of the players you are talking up, warm the benches in IPL. Many of them not even get contract in an IPL team. Seriously, ECB you are 7-8 years too late, and this is very retrogressive, unimaginative, banal reproduction of a T-20 league so far created. (But may be this is what I should expect from a board that behaves rudely, unfairly with its players and staffs) I personally would have appreciated more if you had started a new kind of cricket series.

  • D.S.A on May 14, 2015, 19:52 GMT

    After a World Cup and an edition of the IPL, this will not be taken too seriously by the internationals. They will probably find it easier, rather than harder, to succeed in this T20 competition, and it's low profile pretty much means that good or bad performances will not register on anybody's radar. All in all, it is pretty pathetic that the broadcasters can talk it up as if it is on par with the IPL, the Big Bash, and perhaps the Caribbean T20. Most of all, however, the ECB have indirectly admitted how pathetic it is by being forced to combine the semi-finals and the final on the same day, and brand it "Finals Day" because of viewership and attendances were awful, so it can be hidden by combining it all. No major competition, in any sport, would want to lose out on television money, stadia attendance money, and everything else that comes with two separated semi-finals and a separate final. Obviously, every other competition, in all sports, is being staged incorrectly, huh!?

  • BRUTALANALYST on May 14, 2015, 19:47 GMT

    Add to that list Dilshan and Afridi . . . the format really needs reworked without any clash with CPL and shorter on length/

  • BRUTALANALYST on May 14, 2015, 19:40 GMT

    Some good players however Gayle Guptill Sammy Fidel and Mahela will all be off to CPL before the Blast is even halfway through

  • dummy4fb on May 14, 2015, 13:52 GMT

    Eh? Second biggest to the IPL on star power? You have to be kidding. Big Bash is miles bigger with better players. I imagine this will be another flop. Just make it a franchise based comp already, these counties are dull.

  • Alan on May 14, 2015, 13:21 GMT

    It was Middlesex who beat Durham recently, not the other way round. Also you have omitted to mention Middlesex's other overseas signing Kyle Abbott. I agree that their win in 2008 seems a long time ago.

  • KapilnotDev on May 14, 2015, 13:20 GMT

    @Shane Dobson nothing personal here. Fair point re some wonderful players in action. But the current format will be no one's envy. Too many teams and still too few star attractions. Been to some of these matches and they are not exactly exciting. Do hope that the ECB higher-ups listen to the public and also do hope that the commentator stop glossing over what is at best a very average league in a country that desperately needs to get its act together in the limited-overs formats. On a positive note, would be great to see the Pakistani talent in action and yes, some of the finest in business from other countries.

  • blink182alex on May 14, 2015, 13:16 GMT

    I hardly think the Blast is envied by the Big Bash. Although there are some A-list names like Gayle, McCullum etc you have to remember there are 11 players in a side. And for teams like Gloucestershire all the attention will be on 1 or 2 players in Klinger and Handscomb. The rest - bowlers like Miles, Payne, Taylor & Norwell, people don't have a clue who they are and they'll never play internationally. Difference in the Big Bash is that internationals - or future internationals play against each other. Look at the Perth Scorchers for example, Marsh's, Coulter-Nile, Voges, Klinger, Carberry, Whiteman, Behrendorff, Paris, Hogg. Not just 1 or 2 names to watch but 8 or 9 in every team.

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