Tickets for #Blast17 are now on sale across the nation with a feast of action to look forward to: https://www.ecb.co.uk/t20-blast/tickets
The competition kicks off on July 7 with Essex Eagles launching their campaign at home to Surrey for the second consecutive year live on Sky Sports.
Other highlights of that opening Friday night round are a West Midlands derby between Worcestershire Rapids and Birmingham Bears, which seems certain to generate a capacity crowd at New Road; and Gloucestershire launching their campaign in the stunning surroundings of the Cheltenham College ground as they face Middlesex in one of county cricket’s great Festivals, with Kent Spitfires and Sussex Sharks also due for Blast fixtures there against Richard Dawson’s team the following week.
Back in the North Group, Derbyshire Falcons have the chance to get off to a flier, as less than 24 hours after their Friday night opener at holders Northamptonshire Steelbacks, they face Yorkshire Vikings the following afternoon at another of the game’s loveliest outgrounds, Queen’s Park in Chesterfield.
The outground theme continues as the busy opening weekend concludes on Sunday afternoon with Sussex Sharks hosting Glamorgan in Arundel, and Kent Spitfires resuming their local rivalry with Essex Eagles at the County Ground, Beckenham.
Then the two biggest derbies of the lot, at least judging from crowd figures, should ensure a bumper second weekend, as Middlesex face Surrey at Lord’s on Thursday 13 July, and the following night Yorkshire Vikings cross the Pennines for their usual warm Lancashire welcome at Emirates Old Trafford.
The hectic pace continues until 18 August, and the last eight of the 126 group matches that will be played in just 43 days. The top four in each group, North and South, will qualify for quarter finals that are played over four consecutive evenings starting the following Tuesday (22 August), with the top two earning home advantage. And the winners of those four games will book their places for Finals Day, which is being staged at Edgbaston for the fifth year running.
Last summer saw Northamptonshire Steelbacks win the title for the second time in three seasons with a memorable victory against Durham Jets in the rain at Edgbaston.