T20 Blast: All you need to know about the first 15 years of English Twenty20 cricket
|Dates: 4 July - 15 September|
|Coverage: Ball-by-ball commentary of every match on BBC local radio on tablets, mobiles, online and the BBC Sport app. In-play highlights and live text commentary of selected games on the BBC Sport website. Selected commentaries on BBC Radio 5 live sports extra.|
Professional Twenty20 cricket is now 15 years old in England.
Although it might have taken a few wrong turns in its infancy, thrown the odd tantrum and even changed its name a few times, it appears to have turned into a fine strapping teenager.
Another short-form city-based game is scheduled for 2020, but the T20 Blast is very popular, highly competitive and the most watched, if not necessarily loved, of England's three domestic formats.
Of its 15 editions so far, there have been 11 different winners and all but two of the 18 county teams - Worcestershire and Derbyshire - have at least had the pleasure of making it to Finals Day.
It was no surprise whatsoever for Warwickshire to announce on the eve of the tournament that this year's Finals Day on 15 September has already sold out.
So who wins it in 2018?
With India touring England for three T20 matches, three one-day internationals and a five-match Test series, there are noticeably no Indian players appearing this year.
In addition to England, there are representatives from nine of the other 10 Test-playing nations, including the latest recruits to the upper echelons of the international cricketing fold - Ireland and Afghanistan.
Almost 50 players will flood in, including a lot of new blood, but it is significant that there are no new faces for holders Notts Outlaws.
Last year's limited-overs kings, who won the One-Day Cup at Lord's as well as lifting the T20 trophy for the first time, again go with Australian Dan Christian as captain and New Zealand leg-spinner Ish Sodhi. And they start as favourites.
But, with a pace attack of Jofra Archer, Chris Jordan and Tymal Mills, Afghanistan spinner Rashid Khan, plus big-hitters such as Laurie Evans and Kiwi Tom Bruce, Sussex are much-fancied too.
Newly crowned One-Day Cup winners Hampshire will start the tournament in confident mood, with in-form Rilee Rossouw and James Vince to open the batting.
Surrey cannot be written off in any tournament, especially with big-hitting Australians Nic Maddinson and Aaron Finch - fresh from breaking an international T20 record on Tuesday - joining England's Jason Roy in a powerful batting line-up and South African Kolpak signing Morne Morkel bolstering their bowling attack.
Yorkshire have a loose cannon in Tom Kohler-Cadmore, who proved with his former county Worcestershire that he can take any attack apart on his day. They had hoped to have Australia fast bowler Billy Stanlake available, but he was pulled out by Cricket Australia in May. That leaves the Tykes with just one overseas player, New Zealand captain Kane Williamson, who will return for his fourth spell at Headingley from 20 July.
As for the outsiders, Glamorgan are always fun to watch. Captain Colin Ingram was last summer's top six-hitter, clearing the rope 59 times.
Even if it is only for the first four matches, Kent have brought in explosive West Indies all-rounder Carlos Brathwaite. England supporters will remember his role in arguably T20 cricket's most famous moment - his four successive sixes off Ben Stokes that clinched the World T20 tournament in 2016.
And neither Worcestershire nor Derbyshire, the two counties never to have made it to Finals Day, should be discounted.
Five-times quarter-finalists Worcestershire, although looking weak with the ball, have Martin Guptill, Joe Clarke, Ben Cox and either of their two Australians Travis Head and Callum Ferguson to compete with Ross Whiteley for boundary hitting.
And Derbyshire, having reached the last eight for the first time in 12 years in 2017, are intent on going at least one better. As well as Pakistan's Wahab Riaz and their Irish captain Gary Wilson, they are looking north of the border for further inspiration, as their squad will also contain Safyaan Sharif and Calum MacLeod - two of Scotland's conquerors of England last month.
- The T20 qualifying campaign is again split into two groups of nine counties - North and South.
- It is later than usual this year, running from Wednesday 4 July to Friday 17 August.
- Each team plays 14 group matches. Sides will play home and away against six opponents - and face two of the teams in their group just once.
- The quarter-finals will be played on 23-26 August.
- Finals Day is on Saturday 15 September, staged at Edgbaston for the sixth successive year and the 10th time in all.
Great moments in the T20
When did it all start?
- 13 June 2003 - Twenty20 cricket was launched in England as the first five group games got under way at The Oval, The Rose Bowl, The Riverside, Taunton and New Road. The honour of hitting the first six went to Nick Knight, just ahead of Mike Hussey, Wasim Akram, Kevin Pietersen and Owais Shah.
- 2 July 2004 - Andrew Symonds off 34 balls for Kent against Middlesex at Mote Park, Maidstone. Chasing 156 to win, the Australian opener averaged a boundary more than every other ball, hitting 18 fours and three sixes before holing out for 112 as Kent won with 41 balls to spare. Only two men in world T20 cricket - Chris Gayle (30 balls) and Indian Rishabh Pant (32 balls) - have ever done it quicker.
Most sixes in an innings?
- 24 June 2008 - 16 by Essex's Graham Napier, who peppered the Chelmsford crowd on his way to an unbeaten 152 off 58 deliveries against Sussex, with what was then the highest individual score in the competition.
Biggest winning margin?
- 15 June 2011 - Somerset's 143-run win over Essex. Marcus Trescothick hit 108 and James Hildreth 64 off 29 balls in an unbroken third-wicket stand as Somerset posted 225-2. Essex were then bowled out for just 82.
Best bowling figures?
- 5 July 2011 - Seven years on from taking 6-5 against Glamorgan at Sophia Gardens, Somerset spinner Arul Suppiah's figures remain the best ever returned in world Twenty20 cricket. He took the last five wickets in just 22 balls as Glamorgan tumbled from 72-4 to 98 all out.
Most sensational finish?
- 28 August 2013 - Northants' David Willey finished off the final with a hat-trick. He had already hit 60 off 27 balls, and then took 4-9, including Surrey's final three batsmen as Northants won by 102 runs to claim their first title.
Highest run chase?
- 25 July 2014 - After Essex piled up 225-3, Sussex astonishingly then reached their target with nine balls to spare. Luke Wright led what was then a world-record run chase, hitting an unbeaten 153 off 66 balls - the third highest individual score in English T20.
Best home debut?
- 3 July 2015 - Brendon McCullum smashed 11 sixes and 13 fours for Birmingham Bears at Edgbaston as he made himself known to the locals with a 42-ball ton, going on to finish unbeaten on 158 off 64 deliveries - the fourth-highest score in world T20, but now only the second-best in England.
Most sixes in one over?
- 23 July 2017 - six of them, all from Worcestershire's Ross Whiteley, off Yorkshire spinner Karl Carver in an over that also contained a wide. Needing a seemingly hopeless target of 98 off 30 balls, his efforts reduced the target to a slightly less risible one. But David Willey, who had earlier hit a Yorkshire T20 best of 118 off 55 balls, snared him with the final ball of the 18th over to help the Tykes win by 37 runs.
Highest individual score?
- 17 Aug 2017 - David Willey's Yorkshire record lasted 23 days as Adam Lyth hit 161 in 73 balls, the highest score recorded in English T20 cricket. He smashed seven sixes and 20 fours, breaking Brendon McCullum's record, but ended 14 short of Chris Gayle's world record 175. Yorkshire knocked up 260-4, a total which is also a domestic record, in their 124-run win over Northants.
Afghanistan players make English T20 debut
As befits a country rightly proud of the Test status they acquired last summer, Afghanistan are becoming an increasing noise in world cricket and that is summed up by the presence of three of their spinners in this year's T20 Blast.
Leicestershire and Hampshire have both brought in Indian Premier League performers in Mohammad Nabi and Mujeeb Ur Rahman respectively, as have Sussex with leg-spinner Rashid Khan.
"He looks awesome," said Sussex captain Ben Brown. "He's taken T20 by storm. Every game he plays in, he seems to have an amazing impact.
"Sussex have got a good history with mystery leg-spin so it's really exciting.
"You always have to consider the characters of overseas players because they're big players and can have a big influence. You need people with the right attitude who are here to commit to their cricket and also be a good person off the field as well. Everything you hear about Rashid Khan is outstanding in that department."
The world's top T20 talent
AUSTRALIA: Ashton Agar (Middlesex), Dan Christian (Notts), Callum Ferguson/Travis Head (Worcestershire), James Faulkner Lancashire), Aaron Finch (Surrey), Usman Khawaja (Glamorgan), Michael Klinger (Gloucestershire), Nic Maddinson (Surrey), Shaun Marsh (Glamorgan), Joe Mennie (Lancashire), Peter Siddle (Essex), Marcus Stoinis (Kent), Andrew Tye (Glamorgan), Adam Zampa (Essex)
NEW ZEALAND: Corey Anderson (Somerset), Tom Bruce (Sussex), Colin de Grandhomme (Birmingham Bears), Grant Elliott (Birmingham Bears, Kolpak), Lockie Ferguson (Derbyshire), Martin Guptill (Worcestershire), Tom Latham (Durham), Adam Milne (Kent), Colin Munro (Hampshire), Ish Sodhi (Notts), Neil Wagner (Essex), Kane Williamson (Yorkshire)
SOUTH AFRICA: Marchant de Lange (Glamorgan), Colin Ingram (Glamorgan, Kolpak), Rory Kleinveldt (Northants), Heino Kuhn (Kent, Kolpak), Morne Morkel (Surrey, Kolpak), Dale Steyn (Hampshire), Rilee Rossouw (Hampshire, Kolpak), Imran Tahir (Durham), David Wiese (Sussex, Kolpak)
SRI LANKA: Seekkuge Prasanna (Northants)
English cricket's T20 roll of honour
Who has won it before?
- 3 - Leicestershire (2004, 2006, 2011)
- 2 - Hampshire (2010, 2012), Northants (2013, 2016)
- 1 - Surrey (2003), Somerset (2005), Kent (2007), Middlesex (2008), Sussex (2009), Birmingham Bears (2014), Lancashire (2015), Nottinghamshire (2017)
- Gloucestershire (2007), Yorkshire (2012), Durham (2016)
- Essex (2006, 2008, 2010), Glamorgan (2004, 2017)
Who has never made Finals Day?
- Worcestershire (five-times quarter-finalists, 2004, 2007, 2012, 2014 and 2015)
- Derbyshire (twice quarter-finalists, 2005 and 2017)