Vitality Blast Season Preview

Wednesday 29th May 2024
Photography by: Nigel Parker/Format94 Photography

With the start of the new Vitality Blast campaign just days away, Derbyshire’s Heritage Officer David Griffin previews the competition.

Now firmly established within the domestic game, T20 cricket returns for a 22nd season and supporters will be looking forward to Derbyshire’s campaign after the Falcons missed out on qualifying for the quarter final stage at the final hurdle in 2023.

Quarter finalists in 2005, and more recently in 2017, 2019 and 2022, Derbyshire under Mickey Arthur appear to have recruited judicially with the arrival of new white ball captain Samit Patel, one of the world’s most experienced T20 cricketers, as well as Pat Brown, Aneurin Donald, David Lloyd and the returning Ross Whiteley.

With Daryn Dupavillon and Blair Tickner available as overseas pace bowlers and Mohammad Amir still expected to arrive for the final six group games, there is much to whet the appetite for members and supporters.

Factor in Derbyshire’s record-breaking T20 cricketer Wayne Madsen, the dynamic opener Luis Reece, hard-hitting wicketkeeper Brooke Guest and last season’s leading wicket-taker Zak Chappell, plus a plethora of other options in the squad, there is great expectation that a quarter final spot, and beyond, is achievable.

The campaign begins against The Steelbacks at Northampton where Derbyshire last opened the T20 season in 2017 with a convincing win under the captaincy of Gary Wilson and Wantage Road has been a happy hunting ground in recent seasons with four wins in the last five matches.

In 2023 the ECB introduced Blast Off to launch the competition and once again this year Derbyshire will be taking part in the event, albeit two days after their opening game. On this occasion they will be once again taking a home fixture to Edgbaston where Leicestershire Foxes will be their opponents. With four wins in a row against their near neighbours, and seven in the last eight, Derbyshire will be expecting to continue that good run.

Following Blast Off Derbyshire play Lancashire Lightning at Old Trafford on the following day to complete a trio of matches on the road to begin their  group stage programme.

The next five fixtures offer the prospect of thrilling weekend cricket; the first home match sees Notts Outlaws making the short journey down the A52 for the first of three Friday nights under lights at Derby when the Falcons’ new white ball captain Samit Patel will be facing his old side for the first time since his move at the end of 2023 and there is certain to be a capacity crowd to witness this battle between these old rivals.

Two days later the Falcons face Yorkshire Vikings at Headingley, while the following weekend sees The Steelbacks at Derby on Friday night with Birmingham Bears the visitors on Sunday afternoon. Derbyshire’s eighth game of the competition is at Trent Bridge on Friday 21st June after which counties revert to Championship cricket.

After a four-day game at Lord’s, the Chesterfield Festival gets underway on Sunday 30th June with another four-day game, against Yorkshire. A short trip to Leicester to face The Foxes comes on the Friday evening before the festival concludes on the Sunday when The Falcons will be looking to defeat The Vikings for the seventh consecutive time in T20 games at Queen’s Park.

Lancashire Lightning, who usually bring a large following to The County Ground, are the visitors on Thursday 11th July while on the following Sunday Edgbaston will be Derbyshire’s destination for an afternoon game against Birmingham Bears.

Just two group games will remain by this point and both of Derbyshire’s final opponents will be sides they will not have already met hitherto in 2024; New Road, Worcester will host the game against Worcestershire Rapids, and on Friday evening, 19th July, Derby will entertain Durham Dynamos to round off the group stages.

Derbyshire’s form against the majority of their eight group opponents has been evenly balanced in recent seasons with two exceptions. Derbyshire’s last win against Nottinghamshire came at Derby in 2015, while their last win at Trent Bridge was in 2013; in stark contrast, Derbyshire have beaten Yorkshire in six successive games at Queen’s Park, Chesterfield including the thrashing by 144 runs in 2023, a record margin of victory in this form of the game by Derbyshire.

Wayne Madsen will be expected to deliver his usual weight of runs; last season he scored 580 T20 runs, a club record, a tally which included a world record-equalling five consecutive scores of 50 or more (the record is now six) and ended the summer only five sixes short of 100. He will be the first Derbyshire player to reach that landmark, Luis Reece sitting behind him in second place with 65. Harry Came, Donald, Guest, Matt Lamb, Patel and Whiteley will offer quick runs all the way down the order, although fitting them all into the side might be Arthur’s biggest challenge.

Zak Chappell, in his first season at the club took 26 T20 wickets in 2023, a new county record, at the outstanding rate of 1.85 wickets per game, another Derbyshire record, while Brown and the overseas quicks will offer significant additional firepower.

All-rounders Anuj Dal, Lloyd, Patel, Reece and Whiteley will all offer something with the ball, with Jack Morley and Alex Thomson the options to accompany Patel in the spin bowling department.

Brooke Guest, having currently played 44 T20 matches, should become the 10th Derbyshire player to feature in 50 games for the county – and the first ‘keeper to do so – while Luis Reece needs 278 runs to join Madsen and Wes Durston as the only Derbyshire players to score 2,000 T20 runs.

For those interested in quirky records, it might be worth watching to see if James Pipe’s highest score batting at number seven for Derbyshire – just 45 – is overtaken by one of Derbyshire’s lower-order batting powerhouses.

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