Thousands of cricket followers eagerly await what is for many the highlight of the summer, the T20 Vitality Blast tournament. With an extra special launch this year, Heritage Officer David Griffin previews another busy campaign.
Derbyshire are known as the Falcons in this competition and while in 2022 they didn’t manage to lift the trophy they were flying high until they were defeated by Somerset in the quarter final at Taunton.
Although ten other counties would have been happy to take Derbyshire’s place in that game at Taunton, the result, a defeat by 191 runs, was a disappointing end to what had been the most successful group stage since the competition began in 2003.
The Falcons began the summer with a narrow defeat at home to Birmingham Bears but recovered to win at Leicester on the following day before backing up that victory with a comprehensive nine wicket win over Yorkshire Vikings at Leeds in a game affected by heavy rain.
What followed provided a real contrast in fortunes; the next three matches saw consecutive defeats to Lancashire Lightning at Old Trafford, Notts Outlaws at Derby, and Northants Steelbacks at Northampton and two wins and four defeats from six matches was far from ideal.
However, their next five games produced some outstanding cricket and delivered a club record five consecutive T20 victories. Four of the five were decisive, with a seven-wicket win, two by six wickets, and another by 29 runs.
The win over Yorkshire Vikings at a packed Chesterfield was close, with Leus du Plooy, captain for 2023, masterminding another final over win at this famous old ground and for good measure beating Yorkshire there for the fifth consecutive time in this competition.
A heavy defeat at Nottingham broke the run but a superb final over from George Scrimshaw secured what had appeared an unlikely win over Lancashire on a highly charged Friday night at Derby, before Wayne Madsen’s first T20 hundred against Durham on a glorious sunny Sunday afternoon on the same ground saw Derbyshire end the group stage with a record nine wins and the real bonus for the near-capacity crowd was to witness Madsen score the fastest hundred in the club’s history, off just 47 balls.
Hopes were high as supporters travelled to Taunton for the quarter final but a devastating onslaught by the Somerset top order meant that Derbyshire missed a second appearance at Finals Day.
Overall, however, despite the defeat to Somerset, the tournament had been positive for Derbyshire, their nine wins and 18 points both being records in this competition. Qualification for the quarter finals also confirmed the Falcons’ improvement over recent years in the shortest form of the game having also reached this stage in 2017 and 2019.
Shan Masood led the way with a club record 547 runs in 2022 closely followed by Madsen who scored 499 and du Plooy who made 340. With the ball Scrimshaw’s 23 wickets equalled Ravi Rampaul’s record set in 2019, and he was well supported by Mattie McKiernan (17), Hayden Kerr (15), Mark Watt (13) and Sam Conners (10).
In 2023, Derbyshire can welcome Sri Lankan Suranga Lakmal to the bowling attack following his injury last year while at the top of the order the exciting Pakistani Haider Ali will surely impress and delight onlookers in equal measure with his thrilling approach to white ball cricket. Pakistan’s Zaman Khan also joins for the Vitality Blast, after winning the Pakistan Super League in each of the last two seasons.
Madsen, Luis Reece, du Plooy and new signing Matt Lamb plus Harry Came, Tom Wood and wicketkeeper Brooke Guest offer high quality options with the bat, and with three spinners of varying style – Watt, McKiernan and Alex Thomson, plus the all-round skills of Anuj Dal, and a strong complement of pace bowlers including Scrimshaw, Zak Chappell, Conners, Ben Aitchison and Nick Potts there will be competition for places with all skills bases appearing to be covered.
Derbyshire’s opening game of this summer’s competition will be at Edgbaston on what is being billed as ‘Blast Off,’ with two televised matches played on the same day, Derbyshire playing Lancashire Lightning in the first game. This is the first time the start of the competition has been promoted in this fashion and it’s hoped that the crowd in the ground, plus a significant television audience, will see the competition launched in style.
Trent Bridge will be the venue for their second game, a ground on which Derbyshire will want to end their ten-year T20 drought before welcoming Northamptonshire Steelbacks to the Incora County Ground for another double-header on Spring Bank Holiday Monday. In the morning, The Blaze play Southern Vipers in the Charlotte Edwards Cup followed by Derbyshire’s first game at headquarters.
There is then a quick turnaround as the Falcons travel to Leicester on 1st June with a home fixture against Birmingham Bears on the following day. Two away games follow at Headingley and Edgbaston ahead of the eagerly anticipated match against Notts Outlaws on Friday 9th June. There is usually a large and animated crowd in attendance for this fixture and this year a Sky television audience will once again join them too.
Championship cricket intervenes for one game, against Yorkshire at Chesterfield, after which there is a long trip to Chester-le-Street to face Durham Dynamos before returning to Queen’s Park for what will surely be another sell-out against Yorkshire Vikings and a chance to extend the winning run over Yorkshire at Chesterfield to six.
Two further away matches at Northampton and Manchester are up next with Derbyshire ending their group campaign at home against Leicestershire Foxes and Worcestershire Rapids.
Derbyshire’s recent advancement into the knock-out stages had whetted the appetite of players and supporters alike and another solid group stage would see them in the quarter finals for the fourth time in seven years. And at that point anything can happen.
Vitality Blast 2023: Be Bold, Be Derbyshire
In 2023, every Derbyshire Falcons home T20 will be played on a Friday night, weekend or Bank Holiday, meaning it’s never been easier to follow the Falcons in the Vitality Blast.
2022 saw a Club-record number of T20 wins, coupled with the Best Domestic Spectator Experience to make the Falcons Vitality Blast campaign one of the best ever, and this year’s promises to be even bigger, with an enhanced food and drink range and added emphasis on accessibility.
Tickets are selling fast, with the clash with Yorkshire Vikings at Queen’s Park, the East Midlands Derby vs Notts Outlaws and the Monday 29 May Family Day gaining high interest from supporters, so don’t delay if you want to experience Mickey Arthur’s Falcons live this summer!