T20 BLAST PREVIEW: Leicestershire coach Nixon won the competition three times in his playing days. It is up to him to mastermind an unprecedented fourth triumph
Coach: Paul Nixon
Captain: Colin Ackermann
Overseas: Mohammad Abbas
Last season: 8th in North Division
An odd campaign at Grace Road might be the best way of looking back on a competition that contained five wins, eight defeats, a single no-result and a positive net run rate.
While finishing second-bottom of the North Division - only ahead of Northants who endured a nightmare season of just two victories in 14 - sounds like a fairly negative experience. However, the performances of some of the club's younger players will have left some cause for optimism.
There is a lot of pressure on captain Colin Ackermann
Arron Lilley: An astute pick-up from Lancashire, the off-spinning allrounder gives it a good old whack and was often used by the Red Rose county as an option towards the top of the order, with all licence to swing from the hip. Given Leicestershire's resources, Lilley has the opportunity to be something more than that - a key player around whom a T20 unit can be built. His finger-spin is more than passable; it is canny, without much flight, designed to withstand the rigours of T20 batsmen.
Colin Ackermann: A grand total of 343 runs in last year's competition was no mean feat, but there is even greater pressure on Ackermann this year. Ben Raine, who was the club's second-highest run-scorer last year has since left the county to return north to Durham.
Mohammad Abbas: Abbas is a key player in a curious sense - the jury remains out on the Pakistan seamer as a T20 cricketer. Gloriously one-dimensional - he offers little with the bat and is not known for his athleticism in the field, he is a lovely red-ball bowler because of his consistency of line and length. Whether he can translate that into something cannier remains to be seen. In nine matches for Leicestershire last year, he went at almost nine runs per over.
In a sense, Paul Nixon is a huge attribute. A T20 champion in his playing days and a former England international in the short formats of the game, few in the county game have the nous of the former wicketkeeper. He has pedigree beyond the UK as well; he won the Caribbean Premier League as head coach of Jamaica Tallawahs on two occasions.
Chuck in the fact that Nixon was part of all three of the glorious Leicestershire teams to have won the T20 title and there is a man with all the experience to lead this latest brand of unfancied Foxes.
Nixon won the competition in his playing days with Leicestershire
One of the reasons for the sheer importance of Colin Ackermann is that, without him, it is tough to see where regular runs are coming from. Mark Cosgrove has the game to succeed in T20 cricket, but endured a poor season last time out, averagin just 18.
Similarly, as well as the departure of Ben Raine, Mohammad Nabi has moved on to pastures new. The Afghan allrounder was the club's second overseas player in the competition in 2018, but he will play for Kent this year. Cameron Delport is another whose life as a T20 globetrotter has taken him from Grace Road to Chelmsford, where he will represent Essex.
It will be tough. So much depends on the form of Ackermann. However, Nixon won't let anyone of a Fox persuasion believe that. He will believe they have a chance. And that might just be good enough to drag them into that top four.
Strongest XI (with T20 Player Index ratings): Harry Swindells (1123), Harry Dearden (1026), Arron Lilley (344), Mark Cosgrove (403), Colin Ackermann (270), Neil Dexter (502), Lewis Hill (761), Callum Parkinson (402), Dieter Klein (947), Mohammad Abbas (498), Gavin Griffiths (526)
Fixtures: Jul 19 - Lancashire (h), Jul 21 - Birmingham (a), Jul 23 - Yorkshire (h), Jul 26 - Durham (h), July 27 - Notts (a), July 31 - Durham (a), Aug 4 - Worcestershire (a), Aug 7 - Birmingham (h), Aug 9 - Northants (h), Aug 15 - Derbyshire (a), Aug 16 - Northants (a), Aug 23 - Notts (h), Aug 25 - Derbyshire (h), Aug 30 - Lancashire (a)
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