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

The Vitality Blast is back! The domestic T20 tournament gets underway on Wednesday – live on Sky Sports – and we’ve got you covered with everything you need to know…

Live Vitality T20 Blast Cricket

June 9, 2021, 5:15pm

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What’s the format?

The Blast returns to its standard form this year, following on from a slightly redacted 2020 tournament that was squeezed into the Covid-disrupted county calendar.

Instead of three regionalised groups, with 10 games per team, we’re back to a North-South split in divisions, with each team scheduled to play 14 matches.

The top four from each group will progress to the quarter-final stage, in the final week of August, while the semi-finals and final will once again be played out on Finals Day, at Edgbaston, on Saturday, September 18.

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

Live on Sky Sports Cricket

The tournament kicks off live on Sky Sports Cricket on Wednesday with a meeting between 2018 winners Worcestershire and defending champions Notts – coverage getting underway from 5.15pm.

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

Wednesday, June 9 – Worcestershire vs Notts
Thursday, June 10 – Middlesex vs Surrey
Friday, June 11 – Northants vs Worcestershire
Saturday, June 12 – Sussex vs Hampshire
Weds, June 16 – Leicestershire vs Birmingham
Thurs, June 17 – Durham vs Lancashire
Fri, June 18 – Essex vs Gloucestershire
Sat, June 19 – Somerset vs Glamorgan
Fri, June 25 – Surrey vs Middlesex
Monday, June 28 – Kent vs Somerset
Fri, July 2 – Yorkshire vs Lancashire
Sat, July 17 – Lancashire vs Yorkshire
Sunday, July 18 – Final group game (fixture TBC)

Tuesday, Aug 24 – Quarter-final 1
Weds, Aug 25 – Quarter-final 2
Thurs, Aug 26 – Quarter-final 3
Fri, Aug 27 – Quarter-final 4

Sat, Sept 18 – Finals Days

Ones to watch?

The defending champs are stacked with talent. Notts Outlaws boast 2020’s premier six-hitter Josh Clarke (22 – tied with Gloucestershire’s Ian Cockbain), as well as England-capped Jake Ball, Ben Duckett, Alex Hales and Samit Patel. Hales is one, in particular, to watch out for as talk grows of a potential return to the international fold this summer.

Kent’s Daniel Bell-Drummond was the leading run-getter in last year’s competition, averaging 42.30, with a more than healthy strike rate of 154.94, while Ball was the top wicket-taker, with 19 in 10 games at an average of 13.63 – further highlighting the Outlaws’ strength.

It’s difficult to know quite the extent to which England players will be involved, due to Test and ODI commitments, but those who find themselves on the fringes of the white-ball side – including James Vince (Hampshire), Tom Banton (Somerset), Liam Livingstone, Saqib Mahmood, Matt Parkinson (all Lancashire), Olly Stone (Birmingham) and Reece Topley (Surrey) – are likely to light it up on more than one occasion.

As for the overseas contingent? While there may not be as many arriving as there would be pre-Covid, there’s still plenty of big-hitters set to grace these shores this summer. Carlos Brathwaite, remember the name! He’ll be smashing sixes into the Hollies Stand at Edgbaston, trans-Tasman pair D’Arcy Short (Aus) and Colin de Grandhomme (NZ) will be a big draw down in Hampshire, while the No 1 T20 bowler in the world, Rashid Khan, will once again take up residency just along the south coast in Sussex.

How does the Blast affect The Hundred?

A trip to Finals Day and a chance to ultimately be crowned Vitality Blast 2021 champions is not the only dangled carrot for players this summer, as a successful tournament personally can also earn them a deal with one of the eight teams in the inaugural edition of The Hundred, beginning on July 22.

Each Hundred team gets to pick one final ‘wildcard’ player to be added to their squad in the coming weeks, earning those picked an extra payday of £24,000 (albeit at the lowest salary band in the competition).

Such a scenario allows for previously unknown or unheralded players, or young talent who take the competition by storm – like Worcestershire’s Pat Brown in 2018, or Somerset’s Banton two years ago – to earn themselves potentially career-changing deals.

Both Brown and Banton have already been drafted for The Hundred, but a quick glance at the completed squads for the competition will show you just how influential a strong showing in the Blast can be. Steven Finn, Matthew Fisher, Bell-Drummond, Stone and Ball are just a few to get Hundred deals after impressing in last year’s competition.

Who will be this year’s wildcards?

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

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