100 days until Blast off

With 100 days to go until the NatWest T20 Blast kicks off, the anticipation amongst counties, players and fans continues to build ahead of arguably the biggest and best domestic campaign in recent memory.

Chris Gayle, Brendon McCullum and Aaron Finch are just a few of the big-hitters that will feature in the competition along with local drawcards such as England internationals Alex Hales, Adil Rashid and Jason Roy.

Here ecb.co.uk takes a quick look at the players to watch from the North and South groups.

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FIXTURES 

SIGNINGS

NORTH GROUP

Jos Buttler – Lancashire

Blistering knocks in the limited-overs format this winter has seen England wicketkeeper-batsman Buttler emerge as one of world’s best.

Depending on his Indian Premier League and Test commitments, Buttler could play a significant role in Lancashre Lightning’s bid to win back-to-back Blast titles.

Currently holding the three fastest one-day international centuries by an England batsman, Buttler’s form in the 50-over series against South Africa, including a 73-ball hundred in the opening match, saw reigning IPL champions Mumbai Indians sign the former Somerset gloveman for the 2016 campaign.

The 25-year-old will make his debut in the competition, which begins on April 8, and playing alongside the likes of Rohit Sharma at Mumbai, who are mentored by India legend Sachin Tendulkar and coached by Australia great Ricky Ponting, will benefit the right-hander and improve the chances of Ashley Giles’ side repeating last year’s success.  

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Kane Williamson – Yorkshire Vikings 

With a world-record T20 partnership of 171 with Martin Guptill to his name for New Zealand, Yorkshire fans will be licking their lips at the prospect of seeing Williamson back in their colours.

The right-handed batsman will feature in eight games for the Vikings having already played at Headingley as an overseas signing in the 2013-14 season.

Williamson is no stranger to the big stage – hitting a six to steer New Zealand to a dramatic World Cup group-game victory over Australia in Auckland last year and Yorkshire Vikings first-team coach Jason Gillespie will hope the talented Kiwi can boost their T20 chances this year.

 

Adil Rashid – Yorkshire Vikings 

Rashid had a successful stint in the Big Bash League, where he was voted the tournament’s second-best player, finishing with 16 wickets.

He will look to use his experience Down Under with Adelaide Strikers to play an important role in Yorkshire’s bid to win the competition for the first time. 

With the likes of big-hitting batsmen Kane Williamson and David Willey in their ranks, the Vikings will rely on Rashid to tie batsmen down in the middle overs.

 

Clint McKay – Leicestershire Foxes

Australian seamer McKay could have a huge say in Leicestershire’s bid to claim their fourth Twenty20 title this summer.

The tall right-arm bowler pipped Adil Rashid to top the BBL wicket charts with 18 scalps, helping Sydney Thunder claim their first title.

McKay returns for his second consecutive summer with the Foxes, who are coached by his Thunder team-mate Andrew McDonald.

 

Dan Christian – Notts Outlaws 

Christian returns to Trent Bridge and fans are well accustomed to his big-hitting exploits in the short-formats.

The former Australia international smacked the biggest six in this year’s BBL – a 117-metre hit landing on the roof of the Gabba in Brisbane.

The 32-year-old, who featured in seven T20 games for the Outlaws last year, is no stranger to Finals Day after helping Hampshire win the competition in 2010.

 

SOUTH GROUP

Chris Gayle – Somerset 

Without a doubt, the return of Gayle has got most English fans filled with excitement as the explosive batsman re-signed for Somerset on a six-match deal.

Despite his short spell last year, the 36-year-old hit an impressive 29 sixes in three games, the equal most in the tournament, which included an eye-catching 151 not out against Kent Spitfires in a losing effort.

As well as his batting brilliance, the self-proclaimed ‘Universe Boss’ captured the hearts of Somerset fans with his off-field activity, famously serving pints of cider behind the bar last summer.  

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Luke Wright – Sussex Sharks

Wright has quietly made his mark around the world in T20 cricket during his impressive stints in the BBL and currently the inaugural Pakistan Super League.

The Sussex captain featured for Melbourne Stars in this year’s tournament in Australia, hitting a match-winning century against local rivals the Renegades in front of 80,883 fans at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

Sussex Sharks fans will not forget his stunning career-high of 153 not out from just 66 balls in the 2014 Blast.

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Brendon McCullum – Middlesex 

McCullum recently brought down the curtain on a glittering one-day international career with a series-clinching victory over arch-rivals Australia in Hamilton.

But the aggressive batsman will turn his attention to Twenty20 cricket as he brings his attacking prowess to Lord’s this summer where he will join fellow Black Cap international Mitchell McClenaghan.

Middlesex fans will be delighted with the signing, especially after his unbeaten 158 – the joint second-highest individual knock in world T20 cricket – for Birmingham Bears last summer.

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Eoin Morgan – Middlesex 

England limited-overs skipper Morgan will look to bring his global experience to a strengthened Middlesex side ahead this summer’s Blast competition.

Morgan’s presence in a Middlesex team also boasting close friend Brendon McCullum is a mouth-watering prospect. 

Remember, the innovative shot-making batsman is a World T20 winner after playing in the England side that won their first global limited-overs title in the Caribbean in 2010.

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Aaron Finch – Surrey 

Surrey fans wondered if the county could replace veteran wicketkeeper-batsman Kumar Sangakkara when the former Sri Lanka skipper departs for the Caribbean Premier League.

Along with West Indies all-rounder Dwayne Bravo, Surrey secured the coup of destructive World Cup-winner Finch, a former Yorkshire Viking.

Finch’s ability as an opening batsman, showcased in his then Twenty20 world-record innings of 156 against England, could help Surrey claim their second T20 title.

The big-hitting Victorian is also known for hitting the top of the Point at Emirates Old Trafford playing for Yorkshire Vikings against Roses rivals Lancashire Lightning and sharing two sensational catches with Adam Lyth.    

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Source: ECB

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