Football supporters have always been able to take comfort in home advantage. The four teams that qualified for the Champions League last season - Manchester United, Manchester City, Tottenham and Liverpool - lost at home in the league only seven times in 76 matches.

Even the three relegated clubs found comfort in winning in front of their own supporters 15 times between them.

It is often claimed that home advantage counts for a lot in T20 cricket. Teams say they know which boundary to target, how the surface plays, and that their home fans spur them on. At Chelmsford they even like to borrow the football lingo and term themselves a fortress.

But so far travelling teams have had the upper hand in the Blast - and markedly. Durham's shock wins at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge within 48 hours took the tally of away wins to 23 out of the 36 games so far - 64%.

And the last two seasons have finished with home sides losing more than they win.

There are a few key reasons for the change. Counties are preparing flatter, harder pitches for T20s - with the logic that big crowds like big scores - and few teams are preparing low-scoring pitches to suit the balance of their side. In 2011, Hampshire's home pitches were invariably used and worn to suit their three-pronged spin attack of Shahid Afridi, Danny Briggs, and Imran Tahir, but no ground in the Blast currently has a reputation for particularly low scores.

The main reason for the lack of home advantage, however, is the comparative importance of the toss. 69% of captains have elected to chase rather than defend when winning the toss so far this season, compared to just 38% ten years ago, and whether a team is chasing is a better indicator of whether they win a T20 than whether they are at home.

For the powers that be, this is 20-over cricket's fatal flaw. When fans flock to Old Trafford, Hove, or Chelmsford on a Friday night, they want their team to win. Cricket crowds have a history of also admiring performances from opposing players but in T20 that tradition is breaking down.

Attendances across the tournament have been impressive so far. Now the challenge for counties is to keep fans coming. And nothing encourages spectators to come back than the pleasure of seeing their own team win. For that to happen, they might need to become a good deal noisier.


The Blast has become the time of season when county cricket's transfer market, once so sedate, reaches peak intensity.

Expect Somerset to announce soon that they have beaten off suitors for Lewis Gregory, their T20 captain. But Liam Plunkett's faltering relationship with Yorkshire, never the same since his last-minute IPL deal persuaded the county that he simply was not value for money, is expected to result in a move to Surrey.

Liam Norwell, Gloucestershire's seamer, could become the latest recruit for Warwickshire who - in their T20 guise as Birmingham Bears - have take a bit of a battering with the ball in their past couple of games.


Surrey bounced back from defeats in their first two games with convincing wins against both Essex and Sussex, and the arrival of Australian batsman Aaron Finch had plenty to do with that.

After limbering up with 58 in his first game, Finch dominated the Surrey innings at Hove in scoring his fifth T20 hundred. His boundary-filled 131* made up 68.2% of Surrey's total of 192 for 3. That made it the second-most single-handed innings in English T20 history, behind Cameron White's 141* for Somerset at Worcester in 2006.

It was also the longest-ever T20 innings by balls faced, at 79 balls; another Finch innings is joint-third on that list, as his record 172 at Harare ten days previously took 76 balls.

When you throw his 84 in Australia's T20I defeat at Edgbaston and an unbeaten 68 against Pakistan in the recently-completed tri-series, it is clear that the bullish Finch is in a remarkable vein of form. With Justin Langer as good as confirming he would captain the ODI side this home summer, Finch is at the peak of his powers.

The same cannot be said of Nic Maddinson, his Australian team-mate, whose Surrey stint started with two single-figure scores. Maddinson's return to the international fold was unsuccessful, as he was dropped after seven runs in four tri-series games. A career once filled with promise and expectation is at a crossroads.

Maddinson is what cricket probably classes as an eccentric. He calls himself a "vegan, cricket player, and whisky enthusiast" in his Instagram bio, sports an incongruous moustache, and was spotted eating a toastie while fielding at mid-wicket in a New South Wales game in 2013.

He could do with a run of scores in the coming weeks: he was released from his state contract at the end of the 2017/18 season, and recently switched Big Bash franchises to join the Melbourne Stars. Perhaps a move to Brisbane would have been more appropriate: the Heat is certainly on.


The rumour is out about Ed Pollock - bowl the spinners - and the Birmingham Bears batsman, armed with the fastest T20 strike rate in the world, knows he must formulate a response.

Worcestershire were first side to open with a spinner against him in a 50-over match and he shovelled a catch to deep square early on. They felt they knew his vulnerability from the days when he was on their academy.

Over last weekend Pollock was bowled coming down the pitch to Colin Ackermann against Leicestershire on Friday and he then holed out to deep square again when Will Smith opened for Durham on Sunday. Success for two slow bowlers who would never claim to be specialists in the art.

Pollock's overall T20 split is interesting: 264 runs in 133 balls off the seamers at a SR of 198 and 124 runs from 71 balls from spinners at 174. It will be interesting to see how this pans out in the weeks ahead.


Derbyshire and Middlesex were hailed as trailblazers when they appointed specialist T20 coaches at the start of 2017. The men tasked with improving the fortunes of two historical underperformers were John Wright and Daniel Vettori respectively, both of whom have experience coaching IPL teams.

Having changed the side's fortunes around last season, Wright's Derbyshire have reverted to type in 2018. Alongside Northamptonshire, they sit at the foot of the North Group with four defeats from four, and have passed 150 only once. While the injured Luis Reece's top-order runs have been a big loss, their form so far suggests a side low on confidence after a mediocre start to the season in the longer formats.

The same is true of Middlesex, who have lost both games since their opening win against Surrey. Vettori has come under scrutiny for his underwhelming record as a T20 coach - his Brisbane Heat, Royal Challengers Bangalore, and Middlesex sides have won 49 of the 114 matches he has overseen - and expensive death bowling has been a feature of their campaign so far.

Both counties recently lost important staff - Richard Scott was dismissed as Middlesex's head coach, and Kim Barnett left his supervisory role at Derby - and both Wright and Vettori will point to the lack of time they have had to work with their squads, having arrived only a week before the start of the Blast.

The manic structure of the county season simply doesn't allow teams much time to work on their T20 strategy before the tournament gets underway, as the two Kiwis have found out to their detriment.


Matt Parkinson stirred a bit of interest among IPL franchises in 2018 without quite attracting a bid - and he has started reliably for Lancashire Lightning as they put spin bowling at the heart of their challenge.

In his last two matches, against Derbyshire and Northants, Parkinson has conceded only two boundaries in eight overs, advancing his reputation as one of the least hittable legspinners in the tournament.

He certainly fits into the Lancashire modus operandi: entering Wednesday night's match against Leicestershire, they had bowled 46% of their overs with spin - the highest tally in the league in this sun-baked summer.


Worcestershire's faith in young fast bowlers Patrick Brown and Dillon Pennington, both only 19, has reaped rewards for the county.

Pennington took 4 for 9 in his third game for the Rapids, claiming the notable scalp of Ben Duckett in the process. After playing just three matches in the Vitality Blast, Pennington has taken seven wickets and is the sixth most economical bowler in the tournament, out of those who have bowled more than five overs.

While he has been slightly more expensive, Brown is the leading wicket taker in the Blast this year, with ten wickets in five matches.

Worcestershire's turn to youth has invigorated their bowling in this Blast campaign. They have won four out of five matches, even managing to restrict Northants to under 90 in a nine over game.