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Jason looks ahead to 2019 Vitality Blast

Somerset Head Coach, Jason Kerr is in optimistic mood ahead of this season’s Vitality Blast.

The Club begin the campaign at Glamorgan tomorrow and already have one trophy in the cabinet, but does Jason think that his side can add to that in the shortest format of the game?

“There’s no reason why not,” he said. “A lot of lessons have been learned from last year’s competition and hopefully we can go that little bit further this year. We grew throughout the competition last year. We won the first couple of games but then lost few and then we found a formula that worked as we moved through the tournament. There’s lots of positives that we can take from last year and bring in to this campaign.

“We pride ourselves on our team philosophy and how we approach games as a unit. You can’t achieve anything without team unity and the guys supporting each other, that’s a given for us.

“Although we’ve won a trophy this season, we almost have to put that to the back of our minds until we revisit that in September. We’re in the midst of the season now and we’re coming off the back of a disappointing result at Headingley. We’re extremely determined to right that wrong. The reality is that you can’t go through the whole season and win every game in all three formats. That’s obviously the aim, but the reality is that you will get the occasional setback. There’s no doubt that we’re as committed to the cause today as we were on day one.”

Who will Somerset’s main challengers be this year?

“The Vitality Blast is going from strength to strength,” said Jason. “The calibre of the overseas players continues to improve and there are so many teams that could win it. Good luck if you’re trying to pick a winner at this stage. From our point of view it’s just about concentrating on what we have to do.”

Somerset will be starting the competition away from the Cooper Associates County Ground this year. Would Jason prefer to open the campaign with some home fixtures?

“It’s always good to play at home but the reality is that you have to play seven at home and seven away,” he said. “Hopefully we can get off to a good start this week and then we’re all looking forward to playing here. To play that first Vitality Blast match at home is always exciting. It would be hard to improve on the atmosphere that we get here for T20s but that’s going to happen this year now we have the lights. The support we get is phenomenal and we can’t wait to see what that will be like under lights.”

Somerset will be lining up with Pakistan batsman Babar Azam at the top of the order this year, and Jason is excited about what he will bring to the team.

“He’s number one in the world in this format and he’s an incredible talent,” said Jason. “It’s not just the spectators who are excited about his arrival. Everyone in the dressing room is looking forward to seeing him play. He looked like a world class player in the World Cup and if he demonstrates those skills here then he’ll definitely be exciting to watch.”

Here is a breakdown of all Somerset’s opponents in this year’s Vitality Blast South Group:

ESSEX

Titles: 0. Finals Days: 4.

Coach: Anthony McGrath. The former Yorkshire captain stepped up to take over as head coach from the England-bound Chris Silverwood at the end of the Championship-winning 2017 season. Essex have performed considerably better against the red ball than the white under his leadership.

Captain: Simon Harmer. The South African all-rounder is having his first taste of T20 captaincy after taking over the role from Ryan ten Doeschate. The off-spinner enjoyed success in the short format when he helped Jozi Stars to the inaugural Mzansi Super League title in South Africa during the winter.

Overseas signing: Mohammad Amir (Pakistan. Plays eight of the first 10 games), Adam Zampa (Australia).

The Narrative: Essex are the great underachievers of T20 cricket having made it to just four Finals Days – their most recent in 2013 – and never beyond lunch when they have got to the showpiece day. They have finished second-bottom and third-bottom in the South Group in the past two seasons, so need a massive improvement.

Star Man: Mohammad Amir. The Pakistan quick returns following a personally satisfying World Cup campaign in which he took 17 wickets. He claimed 14 T20 scalps when he played for Essex in 2017 at an economy rate of 6.78, often conceding less than 20 runs from his four overs.

Mr Consistency: Varun Chopra. Has become something of a white-ball specialist in recent years, topping the Essex run aggregate charts in the past two T20 campaigns with a combined 930 runs. His clean striking of the ball brought him an eye-popping 26 sixes in the 2017 season.

Under the radar: Adam Wheater. The rapidly maturing gloveman was elevated last season to lay the foundations alongside fellow opener Varun Chopra. With the signing of Cameron Delport, Wheater’s rapid run-accumulation will be put to equally good use towards the latter stages of Essex innings.

Killer Stat: Cameron Delport’s 49-ball ton for Islamabad United against Lahore Qalanders in March was the fastest century scored in Pakistan Super League history.

GLAMORGAN

Titles: 0. Finals Days: 2.

Coach: James Foster. The former Essex and England wicketkeeper-batsman will work alongside Matthew Maynard as a T20 consultant for the duration of the competition. Foster has previously been involved with various teams including Worcestershire and the England Lions.

Captain: Colin Ingram. The South African leads by example and will take the captaincy for the second successive year. Ingram has been the club’s outstanding batsman in one-day cricket since he signed in 2015, and during the winter appeared in numerous T20 competitions including the IPL and the Big Bash.

Overseas signing: Fakhar Zaman (Pakistan. First eight games), Mitch Marsh (Australia. Joins after four games at least).

The Narrative: Glamorgan have reached just two Finals Days, albeit the last two summers ago, but enter this year’s tournament in high spirits with just one defeat in the Championship and designs on promotion.

Star Man: Colin Ingram. The skipper has been Glamorgan’s leading runscorer for the past three years and his performances have been rewarded with inclusion in all the leading T20 competitions around the world. At his best he Ingram a destructive hitter capable of changing the course of a game in a few overs.

Mr Consistency: Graham Wagg. The 36-year-old all-rounder is one of those players that continues to endure on the domestic scene with a combination of smarts with the ball, heavy hitting with the bat and a competitive instinct to ensure he remains a key part of Glamorgan’s ambitions.

Under the Radar: Dan Douthwaite. Signed at the start of the season after impressing with Cardiff MCCU, the 22-year-old bats in the middle order, can strike the ball vast distances and is also a useful medium pace bowler. He gave a glimpse of his all-round potential in front of the Sky Sports cameras at Sussex during the Royal London One-Day Cup and will have an eye on making a Blast impact.

Killer Stat: Former Somerset batsman Ingram holds the Glamorgan record of scoring the fastest century in T20 cricket – 46 balls against Sussex at Arundel in 2017.

GLOUCESTERSHIRE

Titles: None. Finals Days: 2.

Head Coach: Richard Dawson. The former Yorkshire and England off-spinner took charge of the team in 2015 and led them to victory over Surrey in the Royal London One-Day Cup final at Lord’s that season. He played for Gloucestershire between 2009 and 2011.

Captain: Michael Klinger. The experienced Australian batsman is back for a seventh season with Gloucestershire, playing only in the Vitality Blast, having established himself as one of the most popular overseas signings ever to represent Gloucestershire.

Overseas signings: Michael Klinger (Australia), Andrew Tye (Australia).

The Narrative: While Gloucestershire’s prime objective this summer is promotion in the County Championship, head coach Richard Dawson anticipates a strong Vitality Blast challenge, having seen his side only miss out on a place in the knock-out stages of the Royal London One-Day Cup on run-rate.

Star Man: Andrew Tye. A late developer, the seamer was 26 when he made his debut for Western Australia. Now 32, he was a member of the Australia A squad, who visited England this summer, having been capped by his country in T20 and one-day internationals.

Mr Consistency: Benny Howell. The 30-year-old all-rounder has become renowned for his variety of delivery as a medium-pacer in one-day cricket, using different grips on the ball to regularly bamboozle batsmen.

Under the radar: Tom Smith. The former Middlesex left-arm spinner has become an integral member of Gloucestershire’s T20 side since joining the county in 2013, bowling in mid-innings with a consistently good economy rate.

Killer stat: Gloucestershire have never won the County Championship or the Twenty20 Cup, finishing second six times in the longer format, and losing to Kent at Edgbaston in the final of the 2007 T20 Cup, their best effort in the competition.

HAMPSHIRE

Titles: 2 (2010,2012). Finals Days: 7.

Coach: Adi Birrell. The popular South African arrived at the Ageas Bowl in the winter and already has a runners-up medal to his name in the Royal London One-Day Cup. He has plenty of experience having led Ireland at the 2007 World Cup, along with stints with the Proteas and England Under 19s.

Captain: James Vince. Vince has been Hampshire’s T20 captain since 2013, skippering his county to Finals Day four times during his reign. Having been a member of England’s World Cup squad, he’ll be aiming to continue his successes this summer.

Overseas signing: Chris Morris (South Africa)

The Narrative: Hampshire are out for redemption and revenge. The county suffered their worst T20 campaign in over a decade when they managed just two wins last year. James Vince’s men are still hurting from their Royal London One-Day Cup final defeat to Somerset; but little is more dangerous than a wounded animal.

Star Man: Rilee Rossouw. Has the nickname ‘The Entertainer’ for a reason; crowds are rarely bored when he is at the crease with his power-hitting among the best in the competition. The South African’s strike-rate of 146 for Hampshire is by far the highest in the current side.

Mr Consistency: Liam Dawson. Second in the Hampshire statistics for wickets, runs and catches in 2018, there aren’t too many more rounded all-rounders than Dawson. The left-arm spinner epitomises control in all aspects of his game.

Under the radar: Aneurin Donald The big hitting batsman is striking (literally!) his form at the right time. The Welshman recently hit 225 runs at a strike-rate of 118 in a Specsavers County Championship match to warm himself up for the Blast.

Killer stat: No team has more than Hampshire’s seven Finals Day appearances.

KENT SPITFIRES

Titles: 1 (2007). Finals Days: 2.

Coach: Matt Walker. Mid-way through his third season at the helm, Walker still holds the record for the highest First Class individual score at Canterbury (275* v Somerset in 1996). An innovative, hard-working coach popular with players and supporters alike, he has assisted England’s T20I preparations for the past two summers.

Captain: Heino Kuhn. Will act as interim skipper in the absence of Sam Billings, whose return to full fitness following shoulder surgery is imminent. A forceful batsman, Kuhn brings South African grit, dynamism and a determination to win to the leadership role.

Overseas signings: Adam Milne (New Zealand), Mohammad Nabi (Afghanistan).

The Narrative: Backed by dynamic fielding, no holds barred batting and overall nous with the ball, the Spitfires have excelled in white-ball cricket for the past three seasons without clearing the final hurdle to Finals Day. The mystery of Afghanistan spinner Mohammad Nabi and the return of Kiwi firebrand Adam Milne for a third Kentish stint will strengthen their hand.

Star Man: Joe Denly. The PCA player of the year for 2018 topped Kent’s T20 batting averages last summer with 409 runs at a strike rate of 145. A classy batsman and athletic fielder, he also took 20 wickets with his vastly improved leg-spin to top the Spitfires’ bowling averages.

Mr Consistency: Daniel Bell-Drummond. The former England Lions batsman has underpinned Kent’s recent white-ball success with his stand-and-deliver approach to top-order batting. With over 2,000 runs in the format at a strike rate of 133.74, he will be looking to add to his one T20 century (112* v Surrey at Tunbridge Wells, 2016).

Under the radar: Alex Blake. A Kent academy graduate and white-ball specialist whose ‘range hitting’ can turn a game on its head in a handful of overs. A dynamic fielder with a gun arm and safe pair of hands, his best form is crucial to Kent success.

Killer stat: 294 – Nabi’s wicket-total from his combined 283 T20 appearances in domestic T20 leagues and Afghanistan. He has taken 10 four-wicket hauls and boasts an economy rate under seven-an-over.

MIDDLESEX

Titles: 1 (2008). Finals Days: 1.

Coach: Stuart Law. The former Australia star arrived over the winter to take charge in all formats, resulting in the departure of Daniel Vettori after two largely unsuccessful campaigns as Middlesex T20 coach.

Captain: Dawid Malan. Barring an Ashes call-up, Malan should captain the side for the duration of the tournament and, if so, will provide a consistency of leadership in this format not seen at Lord’s in recent years.

Overseas signings: AB De Villiers (South Africa. Available for at least the first seven matches), Mujeeb Ur Rahman (Afghanistan).

The Narrative: To reference D: Ream’s 1997 hit, ‘Things can only get better,’ as far as Middlesex and T20 are concerned. They finished bottom of the South Group last season with just two wins, losing their final eight games. However, the Seaxes’ white-ball game showed notable signs of improvement in the Royal London One-Day Cup where they reached the play-offs and they’ll be aiming for a similar leap forward in T20.

Star Man: Paul Stirling. While he will miss some of Middlesex’s early games due to Test commitments with Ireland, hard-hitting Stirling provides an explosive presence at the top of the batting order, having racked up over 4,500 runs in T20 cricket.

Mr Consistency: Nathan Sowter. Leg-spinner Sowter has developed an encouraging knack of taking wickets in T20 during the last two years, especially in his first over.

Under the radar: George Scott. All-rounder Scott has featured regularly for the first XI this season and, as well as hitting the ball a long way, he is an outstanding fielder either inside the circle or guarding the boundary.

Killer stat: Tom Helm’s figures of 5-11 against Essex in 2017 are the best by a Middlesex bowler in T20.

SURREY

Titles: 1 (2003). Finals Days: 6.

Coach: Michael Di Venuto. Has been quietly effective in charge at the Kia Oval since his arrival in 2016, with last year’s Specsavers County Championship title the biggest feather in his coaching cap to date.

Captain: Jade Dernbach. Has not played yet this season in any format due to his rehabilitation from a long-term calf injury but the 33-year-old pace bowler, with 58 England white-ball caps, impressed as Surrey’s short-form captain last year.

Overseas players: Aaron Finch (Australia), Imran Tahir (South Africa).

The Narrative: Since winning the inaugural Twenty20 Cup in 2003 the Brown Caps have been runners-up twice, in 2004 and 2013, and also made Finals Day appearances in 2005, 2006 and 2014. Since then they have suffered short-form frustration, including just missing out on a quarter-final place last season. But the winter signings of Liam Plunkett and Jordan Clark, and the arrival of leg spinner Imran Tahir as overseas player alongside Australian batsman Aaron Finch, who returns for a fourth successive season, boost an already highly-talented squad.

Star man: Aaron Finch. The opener plundered 589 runs from only nine innings in last year’s South Group fixtures, five of them unbeaten, averaging a remarkable 147.25 and scoring two hundreds and three fifties.

Mr Consistency: Rikki Clarke. The all-rounder will be 38 in September but since his return to his native county towards the end of the 2017 season he has been a model of consistency and high standards with both bat and ball. In last year’s Vitality Blast he was an ever-present with 235 runs at an average of 47 and 16 wickets at 23.56 runs apiece. In 160 career T20 matches, Clarke has scored 2,245 runs and taken 112 wickets.

Under the radar: Will Jacks, still only 20, already has championship and List A hundreds to his name and has the power and range of strokes to explode in T20 cricket too. A brilliant fielder, he also bowls useful off-spin.

Killer stat: They say T20 is a young man’s game, which must make Surrey one of the big favourites for the Vitality Blast title this year. The super-talented youthful group of Tom Curran (24), Sam Curran (21), Ollie Pope (21), Conor McKerr (21), Ryan Patel (21), Will Jacks (20) and Jamie Smith (19) have already more than made their mark in Surrey’s first team across all formats – and in some cases with England too – and they will all provide energy and enthusiasm in and around the county’s short form squad.

SUSSEX

Titles: 1 (2009). Finals Days: 4.

Coach: Jason Gillespie. Former Australian fast bowler who has won the Big Bash with Adelaide Strikers.

Captain: Luke Wright. Wright leads from the front with explosive batting at the top of the innings. Hugely experienced, he has played 51 T20 internationals and was part of the England team that won the 2010 World Cup.

Overseas signings: Rashid Khan (Afghanistan. First half of tournament), Alex Carey (Australia).

The Narrative: After losing in last year’s final the Sharks are confident of going one better. Despite the likely absence of Jofra Archer they seem to have all the bases covered and they would feel they have underachieved if they don’t make Finals Day again.

Star Man: Alex Carey. A real coup to sign the Australian one-day star who has won the Big Bash with Adelaide Strikers and was named in the Team of the Tournament for the World Cup. A top-class keeper, he has a T20 strike rate of 128.93 and will play a key role in the top five.

Mr Consistency: Will Beer. The leg-spinner has become an integral part of Sussex’s T20 team during 12 years at the county. He rarely gets clobbered and has a habit of getting good batsmen out.

Under the radar: Reece Topley. Topley was good enough to play for England in 16 white-ball internationals and having recovered from back injuries he has a huge incentive to re-launch his career.

Killer stat: When he made a half-century in last year’s final, it was Luke Wright’s 300th T20 appearance. Of English players, only Ryan ten Doeschate and Ravi Bopara have played more.

 

Tickets for our first two Vitality Blast matches have now sold out but tickets for the remaining five fixtures can be purchased here

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