Big names signing up for Blast

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Chris Gayle will bring his gun-slinging style back to the NatWest T20 Blast this summer as the big names continue to be confirmed for next summer’s tournament.

Somerset confirmed at lunchtime today that the big-hitting Jamaican would return to Taunton after a blistering, but brief, spell last year that saw him pile up 328 runs in just three matches including an unbeaten 151 from 62 balls against Kent Spitfires.

The left-hander’s return is not the only significant signing made so far this winter, let alone today, after Yorkshire Vikings confirmed this morning that classy New Zealand batsman Kane Williamson would play eight Blast matches this term.

With the Blast still four months away there is still plenty of time for all 18 counties to woo more and more big names to feature alongside local drawcards such as England limited-overs skipper Eoin Morgan, Alex Hales, Luke Wright and David Willey.

Here have taken a quick look at who has already been confirmed for what promises to be the biggest and best Blast campaign yet.

Chris Gayle (Somerset)

After pulverising opposition attacks in his short stint last summer Somerset fans would have been over the moon to hear that Gayle has signed a longer six-match deal for next season.

The 36-year-old only played three games but his 29 sixes were the equal moist in the tournament and one of them prompted a Somerset fan to dive into the River Tone at Taunton to retrieve one of his giant sixes.

Gayle won over plenty of fans off the field too – famously serving pints of cider behind the bar, and answering the clubhouse phone, at South Devon CC, during a benefit match for Peter Trego – and is set to return with a new self-styled image as the ‘Universe Boss’.

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Brendon McCullum (Middlesex)

McCullum is set to bring down the curtain on his glittering New Zealand career in the upcoming series against Australia before focusing his attention on Twenty20 cricket.

One of his first stops will be Lord’s and Middlesex who have pulled off a real coups to sign a player who is feared as one of the most aggressive batsmen in the world.

Middlesex’s own Steven Finn can lay testament to that, after he was at the brunt of McCullum’s belligerance during last year’s World Cup, while Derbyshire’s attack will also agree after he crashed an English-record unbeaten 158 against them while playing for Warwickshire Bears last summer.

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Andrew Tye (Gloucestershire)

If you don’t know who Andrew Tye is then you haven’t been watching one of the most unlikely rags-to-riches Big Bash League stories over the past couple of seasons.

The right-armer has made an unlikely ascent from grade cricket in Perth to the Australian Twenty20 team on the back of an unmatched repertoire of slower balls.

Tye looks like a fiery fast bowler with a bushy beard and thick gold chain but it is the subtly of eight slower-ball variations – most famous of all his ‘claw ball’ – that has made him one of the hardest-to-hit bowlers in the BBL.

He won the BBL title with Perth Scorchers last year where he plays alongside Gloucestershire’s Michael Klinger.

Andrew Tye has emerged as one of the most stingy bowlers in Australian Twenty20 cricket after playing in grade ranks just two years ago

Kumar Sangakkara (Surrey)

While McCullum is set to light up one half of London this summer on the other side of the river Kumar Sangakkara will be equally as effective at pulling in the crowds.

There have been few batsmen over the past decade more easy on the eye than the former Sri Lanka skipper and while he might not boast the brutal power of McCullum or Gayle his fluid strokeplay is just as effective.

The left-hander is set to be around for all of Surrey’s Blast campaign too after retiring from the international game last summer, when he memorably helped the club into the Royal London One-Day Cup final with 166 in the semi-final against Notts Outlaws.

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Clint McKay (Leicestershire)

The right-arm seamer was the leading wicket-taker in this year’s BBL as Sydney Thunder claimed their breakthrough title with victory over Melbourne Stars in last weekend’s final at the MCG.

McKay has plenty of experience, having made 66 appearances for Australia, and proved his class remains after taking 18 wickets at 15.22 during the BBL05.

He return to Leicestershire for a second consecutive summer under the leadership of coach Andrew McDonald, who was one of his team-mates at the Thunder.

Clint McKay was the leading wicket-taker in this year's Big Bash League as he helped Sydney Thunder to their first title

Kane Williamson (Yorkshire Vikings)

Yorkshire Vikings coach Jason Gillespie has made no secret of the fact that he wants to improve his side’s Twenty20 fortunes and the signature of Kane Williamson for eight games is a tidy piece of business.

Williamson has established himself as one of the best young batsmen in the world with his effortless ability to get the ball to the boundary in any format.

The right-hander has past experience at Headingley as an overseas signing and has done it all on the big stage – who could forget his six to win the Black Caps dramatic World Cup group game against Australia in Auckland last year – while he and Martin Guptill combined for a world-record T20 partnership of 171 as New Zealand beat Pakistan in Hamilton this month.

Kane Williamson, right, and Martin Guptill shared the world-record T20 partnership of 171 runs earlier this month against Pakistan

Dan Christian (Notts Outlaws)

Dan Christian will return to Notts Outlaws after impressing in the short-formats last season at Trent Bridge.

The all-rounder hit the headlines in the recent BBL when he smacked the biggest six of the tournament – a 117-metre blow which landed on the roof of the Gabba in Brisbane – while two years ago he hit 129 from just 57 balls for Middlesex in a losing cause against Kent.

The former Australia international has been a regular in English Twenty20 cricket and won the title with Hampshire in 2010.

Source: ECB

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