T20 BLAST PREVIEW: With a well-balanced side and one of the tournament's finest bowler's in their ranks, Worcestershire are expected to fire once more
Coach: Alex Gidman
Captain: Moeen Ali
Overseas: Callum Ferguson (Australia) and Martin Guptill (New Zealand)
Last season: Winners
Worcestershire dominated the 2018 Vitality Blast. Led by their inspirational captain Moeen Ali, the Rapids won 9 of their 14 group games to finish top of the North Division. They then beat Gloucestershire with eight balls to spare in the Quarter-Final, before comfortably beating Lancashire and Sussex at Finals Day.
Pat Brown took 31 wickets last year
The Rapids arguably have the best young bowler in the competition in Pat Brown. The 20-year-old was the leading wicket-taker in the tournament last year with 31 dismissals at just 13.35. They also have former South African international Wayne Parnell, who claimed 14 wickets at 18.35 in 2018, to call upon.
However, Parnell isn’t the only international-standard player in Worcestershire's ranks. They also have Moeen Ali of England and Royal Challengers Bangalore fame, one-Test wonder Callum Ferguson from Australia, and New Zealand international Martin Guptill.
There’s also former Sydney Sixers batter Riki Wessels, who smashed 307 runs at a strike rate of 163.29 for Notts last year. Let’s not forget Brett D’Oliveira, Ben Cox, Ross Whiteley and Daryl Mitchell too – all of whom are very useful T20 players.
Being defending champions, this well-balanced Worcestershire side will not be willing to give up their crown without a fight. They have power up top with Guptill, Wessels and Ali, consistency down the middle with Brett D’Oliveira and Ben Cox, and the skills of Parnell and Brown. With such a settled and consistent squad, they will be tough to beat.
The loss of Joe Clarke might just cost them the title. The Notts batter played in all but one match last year for the Rapids, scoring 396 runs at a rate of 151.72. They will almost certainly be without Ali for large chunks of the tournament as The Ashes runs throughout. Considering how influential Ali was last year; Worcestershire fans might be hoping for a Jack Leach renaissance.
I wouldn’t go as far as to say they are cricket’s Manchester City, but the defending champions are the side to beat in this year’s Vitality Blast. Expect them to reach Finals Day.
Strongest XI (with T20 Player Index ratings): Martin Guptill (52), Riki Wessels (195), Callum Ferguson (233), Brett D'Oliveira (276), Ben Cox (264), Ross Whitely (291), Daryl Mitchell (262), Ed Barnard (361), Wayne Parnell (153), Dillon Pennington (881), Pat Brown (299)
Fixtures: Jul 18 - Notts (a), Jul 19 - Birmingham (h), Jul 21 - Gloucestershire (a), Jul 26 - Lancashire (a), Jul 28 - Durham (h), Jul 31 - Derbyshire (h), Aug 2 - Yorkshire (a), Aug 4 - Leicestershire (a), Aug 11 - Northants (h), Aug 13 - Derbyshire (a), Aug 15 - Durham (a), Aug 23 - Birmingham (a), Aug 25 - Lancashire (h), Aug 28 - Notts (h), Aug 30 - Northants (a)
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