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On Friday evening, twenty-over cricket explodes back onto the calendar as the NatWest T20 Blast kicks off!
To celebrate the return of the shorter format, Cricket Yorkshire has put together an XI of international stars that you can expect to see facing the Vikings during the northern group stage of the competition.
Yorkshire will start their campaign at home against the Derbyshire Falcons, and our eleven starts with their innovative Sri Lankan opener Tillakaratne Dilshan.
Dilshan is a special player, explosive at the top of the order (there are precious few players who have a shot named after them) his batting was key to Sri Lanka’s T20 World Cup triumph in 2014.
A veteran of more than 300 One Day Internationals with 22 ODI tons, he’s also a useful all-rounder with more than a hundred international wickets to his name, in addition to being devastatingly quick in the field.
Opening the batting alongside Dilshan is the powerful Alex Hales. Whilst Hales failed to hit the heights in the recent fifty-over World Cup, his form for England in the shortest form is undisputed as best exemplified by his rise to the top of the World rankings.
*At the time of writing, he was in talks with IPL franchise, Mumbai Indians, over a short stint in India – depending on if Mumbai qualify for the latter stages.*
At three, we’ve gone for Kiwi Captain Brendon McCullum.
McCullum, a star at the recent World Cup, is one of the most destructive batsmen in the world.
He’s incredibly hard to bowl to not just because of the power of his hitting but also his ability to improvise at the crease. Whilst one of the best ground fielders in the world, he dons the gloves in our side.
Editor’s note: McCullum may or may not end up playing against Yorkshire unless his seven-game deal changes but he’s in their group and you should go and see him bat wherever that is, if you get the chance!
At four is Northants’ batsman Kyle Coetzer. The Scottish vice-Captain best exemplified his talent with a better-than-a-run-a-ball 156 against Bangladesh in the recent World Cup. Coetzer will be a key figure if Northants wish to replicate their 2013 T20 Cup win.
The final middle order batting slot goes to a man better known for his defence than hitting sixes, Paul Collingwood may be known as Brigadier Block for his patient batting when saving Test matches, but it shouldn’t be forgotten that ‘Colly’ also led England to the 2010 T20 World Cup.
Collingwood has the ability to up the tempo should Durham’s innings be stuttering, he also brings more than useful bowling with his medium pace cutters, not to mention being one of the finest fielders to ever grace the game.
Leicestershire’s Kevin O’Brien is the second associate nation player to make our team, but more than any other player from outside of the Test nations he shouldn’t be taken lightly.
England were on the receiving end when O’Brien hit the fastest World Cup century in history. An incredibly strong hitter of the cricket ball, watch out in the stands if O’Brien really gets going!
When the Roses matches take place, the most dangerous player in the Lancashire ranks may well be Australia’s James Faulkner. All-rounder Faulkner is a devastating lower middle order batsman with a T20 strike rate of nearly 125.0, in addition to being a fine death bowler.
If the score needs a push in the final overs Northants’ Shahid Afridi is the man to up the run rate, ‘Boom Boom’ Afridi has been taking bowling attacks apart since he hit his first international hundred at the age of sixteen.
Despite the excitement when Afridi arrives at the crease, his bowling is probably now his stronger suit, his variation of spin – including a dangerous faster ball – makes him a vital addition to our side.
Worcestershire’s Saeed Ajmal will be our team’s leading spinner. Off spinner Ajmal has a lethal doosra that has made him one of the most effective bowlers in the world.
With over four hundred international wickets in all forms of the game he’ll be crucial to the Royals’ chances in this year’s tournament.
Leicestershire’s Clint McKay may not have the express pace of some of his international compatriots, but he more than makes up for this with his variety and accuracy. Having previously played for Yorkshire, he’ll been keen to make an impact when the two sides meet this summer.
Finally at No.11, we have Northants’ Mohammad Azharullah. Azharullah was the star of the tournament when Northants won the Cup in 2013 with 27 wickets at 12 apiece. Having made an impressive start to this year’s Championship, his death bowling could once again be the key to the Steelbacks’ success.
WRITTEN BY JON HULL
**Editor’s note – Imagine the Vikings facing that lot in one go! Bring it on. Anyhow, a slight caveat to this article, you all know how swiftly the sands of T20 overseas availability and circumstances change. Some of the players above may not end up facing Yorkshire but at the very least, it should whet your appetite for what should be a belter of a tournament.
Who says we can’t attract the best players in the World and if Yorkshire progress, they might find they have some bloke called Gayle on the opposition and he can certainly hit a long ball!