As the 14th T20 competition approaches in England we look at the runners and riders in the 2016 NatWest T20 Blast. We assess the merits of Lancashire Lightning in the Northern Group.
PREVIOUS BEST: Winners 2015
OTHER YEARS: One of the most successful counties in the shortest format. Runners Up in 2005 and 2014. Semi-Finalists in 2004, 2007 and 2011. Quarter-Finalists in 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2013. If they won the 2016 trophy they would become the first county to retain the title.
HEAD COACH: Ashley Giles.
CAPTAIN: Steven Croft is arguably the best county player to have never had the chance in an England shirt. His batting has led Lancashire to victory in many one-day matches and his bowling is often underestimated. Add one of the best fielding talents and an astute captain you have a serious one-day talent.
OVERSEAS PLAYERS: Martin Guptill and NeilWagner (New Zealand)
FULL SQUAD: James Anderson, Tom Smith, Tom Bailey, Luis Reece, Luke Procter, Karl Brown, Natham Buck, Alviro Petersen, Jos Buttler, Stephen Parry, Matt Parkinson, Saqib Mahmood, Glen Chapple, Liam Livingstone, Jordan Clark, Aaron Lilley, Steven Croft, Alex Davies, George Edwards, Gavin Griffiths, Haseeb Hameed, Simon Kerrigan, Kyle Jarvis, Neil Wagner, Toby Lester, Martin Guptill.
Lancashire Lightning won their first English T20 title when Steven Croft led them to a 13-run victory over Northants Steelbacks in the Edgbaston final. They beat Hampshire in the semi-final. They are well equipped to repeat the feat.
Ashley Giles, the former England one-day coach, enjoyed a successful with his new charges Lancashire in 2015. They won their first NatWest T20 Blast title and gained promotion to Division One in the County Championship. Their early season form back in the four-day top flight has been encouraging.
They will undoubtedly miss Australian James Failkner who was key to their success with both bat and ball last season.
Kiwi international Martin Guptill (29) is one of the stars of world T20 cricket at the moment and he fires alongside a team brimming with confidence after last year’s success then expect them to come close to silverware again. Guptill is expected to play the first six matches between stints with the Mumbai Indians in the IPL and New Zealand’s tour of South Africa. He became the first New Zealander to hit an ODI double-century and was a member of the team that reached the 2015 World Cup final.
KEY MAN – JOS BUTTLER
Jos Buttler played a key part in England’s path to the ICC World T20 Final earlier this year and, when free of his England commitments, will be a key feature of the Lightning side.
Buttler returns to Old Trafford after a stint with the Mumbai Indians in the Indian Premier League. At the time of writing a highest score of 41 in the IPL will be a disappointment, but there is no doubting his destructive talent. He adds balance to the side by taking the gloves and his experiences in the IPL will serve him well in the 2016 campaign.
ONE TO WATCH – STEPHEN PARRY
A lot of pundits thought that Stephen Parry (30) was unfortunate not to have made England’s squad for the ICC World T20 in India after a stellar NatWest T20 Blast season in 2015.
His skill as a T20 spinner saw him collect 25 wickets, joint best in the country alongside teammate Faulkner.
Ashley Giles is known to be a big fan. He was England coach when Parry won his 2 ODI and 5 T20I caps.