T20 Blast 2018: Nottinghamshire Outlaws vs Birmingham Bears Preview and Playing XI
Defending champions Nottinghamshire Outlaws face Birmingham Bears in the opening game of the 2018 Vitality T20 Blast on Tuesday July 4 at Trent Bridge Cricket Stadium. Outlaws beat the Bears in 2017 season's final after posting 190/4 at Edgbaston before Harry Gurney's excellent bowling helped them to a 22-run victory.
Nottinghamshire : Notts won last year's T20 Blast and return this year with a very similar line-up. Skipper Dan Christian was in good form touring with the Aboriginal XI and if he can replicate that with Notts, leading from the front, they can make a strong start to their title defence.
With the bat, Riki Wessels was the Outlaws top scorer in the 2017 competition with 559 from 16 matches at an average of 43 and strike rate of 151.49. Big-hitting Samit Patel provides the crucial middle-order runs - he had also scored 64* in last year's final.
With the ball, Ish Sodhi and Harry Gurney will be their key bowlers. The New Zealander has 107 wickets in 98 career T20 matches so far, including five scalps in the IPL for Rajasthan Royals from six games. He is ranked as the fourth best T20 international bowler in the world.
Expected Playing XI : Dan Christian (C), Riki Wessels, Chris Nash, Tom Moores, Samit Patel, Harry Gurney, Luke Fletcher, Billy Root, Steven Mullaney, Matthew Carter and Ish Sodhi.
Warwickshire : Bears reached the final of last year's T20 Blast but could not add a second title to their name after falling short in the final to Notts Outlaws. They won eight of their 14 matches to qualify in third place from the North Division, before winning a high-scoring quarter-final against Surrey - scoring 207/4 on their way to victory.
With the bat, Colin de Grandhomme boasts of a strike rate of 167.12 in T20 cricket and arrives back in Birmingham after a spell with Royal Challengers Bangalore in the IPL. Sam Hain, who top-scored in the final defeat to Notts Outlaws last year, made 458 runs in 15 innings in last season's competition will be their go-to man.
With the ball, Jeetan Patel claimed 20 wickets in last season's T20 Blast, with an economy rate of 6.82 runs per over and he is a player to watch out as well/
Expected Playing XI : Grant Elliott (C), Oli Stone, Ed Pollock, Jeetan Patel, Dominic Sibley, Adam Hose, Sam Hain, Henry Brookes, Colin de Grandhomme, Aaron Thomasen and Tim Ambrose.