Vitality Blast 3m

Six matches we're looking forward to in the Vitality Blast 2022

The 20th season of the Vitality Blast begins on Wednesday 25 May 2022

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Six matches we're looking forward to in the Vitality Blast 2022

The 2022 Vitality Blast opens with a repeat of the 2021 final

For the 20th time, the Vitality Blast will grace county grounds up and down the country this summer, starting on Wednesday 25 May.

Once again, the competition is split into North and South Groups, with each county playing 14 group matches each before the top four in each group progress to the knockout stage.

That's 133 total matches for fans to savour, and we've picked out six of them that are especially worth keeping an eye on.

Kent Spitfires v Somerset - 25 May

How better to start a new season than with a rematch of last year's final? The Sky Sports cameras will be at The Spitfire Ground, St Lawrence to see how Kent Spitfires, the reigning champions, fare against Somerset, the in situ runners-up. 

It promises to be a cracker, not least because last year's meeting in the final went against the head-to-head form guide: Somerset have won the previous three encounters between the teams in the South Group. That includes their trip east last summer, when Somerset completed a stunning 10-wicket victory.

KEY STAT: Tom Banton's two T20 centuries have both come against the Spitfires.

Lancashire Lightning v Yorkshire Vikings - 27 May

Friday night. Emirates Old Trafford under the lights. An undoubted raucous atmosphere for one of the biggest rivalries in cricket - the Roses clash between Lancashire Lightning and Yorkshire Vikings.

These matches have delivered so often throughout the years and we expect nothing different this time. Last year's meeting at Headingley saw Harry Brook hit a marvellous 91 not out and Lockie Ferguson deliver a famous hat-trick. Brook will be one to watch yet again alongside Jordan Thompson, while Lancashire now boast Phil Salt at the top of the order and might even produce a spin-friendly pitch for Matt Parkinson.

KEY STAT: Steven Croft is the leading scorer in Roses T20 matches, with 618 runs.

Hampshire Hawks v Sussex Sharks - 4 June

The match that, above all others, is steeped in history. Journey back to 13 June 2003 and this clash was the televised match on the first-ever night of T20 cricket. Hampshire won it, defending a total of 153 by five runs. Jump forward another year, to the home of the Sharks, and another moment etched into folklore. Dimitri Mascarenhas became the first bowler to take a T20 hat-trick - there have been a further 31 in the Blast since.

Dubbed 'El Clasicoast,' this fierce rivalry is sure to deliver. In 2021, 16-year-old Archie Lenham was the star in just his second T20 match, taking 3/14. Perhaps it will be a spin-off: Lenham and Rashid Khan versus Mason Crane and Liam Dawson.

This match will also be played as a double-header with Southern Vipers v Northern Diamonds in the Charlotte Edwards Cup earlier in the day.

KEY STAT: Sussex's Luke Wright is the all-time leading run-scorer in the Blast, with 4,868 runs ahead of the 2022 competition.

Birmingham Bears v Notts Outlaws - 5 June

The Bears have a new captain for the 2022 season, and you'll have no trouble remembering his name. Carlos Brathwaite takes the mantle this year and he'll be looking to lead a first Blast title since 2014. One of the Bears' biggest tests will come on Sunday 5 June when Notts Outlaws make the trip to Edgbaston.

Two of the last five competitions have been won by the Outlaws, who remain among the most consistent performers in the Vitality Blast. They've been, at minimum, quarter-finalists every year since 2015 and thumped the Bears at Edgbaston last year, bowling them out for just 61.

KEY STAT: Sam Hain has an exceptional record against the Outlaws. His T20 debut came in this fixture, and he scored 92*, while he averages 67.42 at a strike rate of 141.74. 

Gloucestershire v Middlesex - 3 July

Few things get the pulse racing like fast bowling, and this contest at The Bristol County Ground is sure to deliver. At the forefront are two precocious Pakistan hotshots: Gloucestershire's Naseem Shah and Middlesex's Shaheen Shah Afridi. 

The last time Afridi played in the Vitality Blast, it was against his 2022 county for Hampshire, in which he took 6/19 including four wickets in four balls to wrap up the match. Shah is yet to feature in English cricket but the paceman, who will be 19 in February, already has nine Test appearances for his country. He was the second-youngest player to take five wickets in an innings. 

KEY STAT: Gloucestershire have won 14 out of a possible 20 matches (70%) against Middlesex; against no other county have they won a higher percentage. They are also unbeaten in nine home matches.

Finals Day - 16 July

Technically, this is three matches, and we don't yet know who will be contesting any of them. But this is the first date in the diary of so many cricket fans that we simply had to include it.

Edgbaston will once again play host to the finest day of the county cricket calendar. It will be the 13th Finals Day to take place in Birmingham and 2022 marks the tenth consecutive year of Finals Day in front of the Hollies.

KEY STAT: Leicestershire Foxes are the most successful Vitality Blast county, with three titles (2004, 2006, 2011).

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