2021 Vitality Blast: All you need to know as domestic T20 competition returns

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Watch the opening game of the Vitality Blast 2021 as the 2018 Worcestershire Rapids winners host defending champion Notts Outlaws, live on Sky Sports Cricket from 5.15pm, Wednesday

Notts Outlaws celebrate their victory at Vitality Blast 2020 last summer

Vitality Blast is back! The national T20 tournament kicks off on Wednesday, live on Sky Sports, and we’ve got you covered with everything you need to know …

The Blast returns to its standard form this year, following a lightly worded 2020 tournament that was included in the county schedule disrupted by Covid.

Instead of three regionalized groups, with 10 games per team, we revert to a North-South split in divisions, with each team scheduled to play 14 games.

The top four of each group will advance to the quarterfinal phase, in the last week of August, while the semifinals and final will be played once again on Finals Day, in Edgbaston, on Saturday 18 September.

North Group: Birmingham Bears, Derbyshire Falcons, Durham, Lancashire Lightning, Leicestershire Foxes, Northants Steelbacks, Notts Outlaws, Worcestershire Rapids, Yorkshire Vikings

South Group: Essex Eagles, Glamorgan, Gloucestershire, Hampshire Hawks, Kent Spitfires, Middlesex, Somerset, Surrey, Sussex Sharks

The tournament kicks off live on Sky Sports Cricket on Wednesday with a meeting between the 2018 Worcestershire winners and the defending champions Notts, coverage will begin from 5.15pm

It is the first of 13 group stage games live to be broadcast on Sky Sports, while the four quarter-finals and Finals Day will also be broadcast exclusively live.

Wednesday June 9 – Worcestershire v Notts
Thursday June 10 – Middlesex v Surrey
Friday June 11 – Northants vs. Worcestershire
Saturday June 12 – Sussex v Hampshire
Wednesday, June 16 – Leicestershire vs Birmingham
Thursday June 17 – Durham vs Lancashire
Friday June 18 – Essex v Gloucestershire
Saturday June 19 – Somerset vs. Glamorgan
Friday June 25 – Surrey v Middlesex
Monday June 28 – Kent vs. Somerset
Friday july 2 – Yorkshire vs Lancashire
Saturday July 17 – Lancashire vs Yorkshire
Sunday July 18 – Final group match (date to be confirmed)

Tuesday, August 24 – Quarterfinal 1
Wednesday, August 25 – Quarterfinal 2
Thursday 26 August – Quarterfinal 3
Friday, August 27 – Quarterfinals 4

Saturday September 18 – Final days

Join Sky Sports Cricket for an action-packed summer of cricket featuring men’s and women’s internationals plus The Hundred!

Defending champions are packed with talent. Notts Outlaws boast the best six-hitter of 2020 Josh clarke (22 – tied with Ian Cockbain from Gloucestershire), as well as England Jake ball, Ben duckett, Alex Hales Y Samit patel. Hales is one, in particular, to watch out for as there is talk of a possible return to the international fold this summer.

Kent’s Daniel Bell-Drummond was the leader in scoring runs in last year’s competition, averaging 42.30, with a more-than-healthy hit rate of 154.94, while Ball was the best in taking terrain, with 19 in 10 games averaging 13.63 , which further highlights the strength of the Outlaws.

It is difficult to know to what extent England players will be involved, due to the Test and ODI commitments, but those who are on the sidelines on the white ball side, including James vince (Hampshire), Tom banton (Somersault), Liam Livingstone, Saqib mahmood, Matt parkinson (all Lancashire), Olly stone (Birmingham) and Reece topley (Surrey) – you will likely turn it on more than one occasion.

As for the overseas contingent? While there may not be as many arriving as before Covid, there are still plenty of heavy hitters ready to grace these shores this summer. Carlos Brathwaite, Remember the name! Will be smashing sixes against the Hollies Stand in Edgbaston, trans-Tasman pair Short D’Arcy (Aus) and Colin de Grandhomme (NZ) will be a huge draw in Hampshire, while the world’s No. 1 T20 bowler, Rashid Khan, will re-establish itself on the south coast of Sussex.

A trip to Finals Day and the chance to finally be crowned Vitality Blast 2021 champions is not the only carrot pending for players this summer, as a personally successful tournament can also win them a deal with one of the eight teams in the inaugural issue of The Cien, starting July 22.

Each Hundred team can choose a final ‘wild card’ player to add to their squad in the coming weeks, earning those chosen an additional £ 24,000 payday (albeit in the lowest salary band in the competition).

Such a scenario allows previously unknown or unannounced players, or young talents taking the competition by storm, like Pat Brown of Worcestershire in 2018 or Banton of Somerset two years ago, to win contracts that will potentially change their career.

Both Brown and Banton have already been selected for The Hundred, but a quick look at the teams completed for the competition will show you just how influential a good performance in the Blast can be. Steven Finn, Matthew Fisher, Bell-Drummond, Stone and Ball are just a few of those who landed hundreds of offers after impressing in last year’s competition.

Who will be this year’s wild cards?

Follow the Vitality Blast 2021 on Sky Sports digital platforms. Watch the opening game as Worcestershire Rapids host the Notts Outlaws, live on Sky Sports Cricket starting at 5.15pm on Wednesday.

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