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The Vitality Blast is back on Wednesday with Wayne Madsen ready to defend his crown as last year’s Most Valuable Player in the domestic T20 competition.
The Derbyshire batsman racked up 211 T20 MVP points in 2017 and ended up 17 points ahead of Notts Outlaws Samit Patel who helped his side win the competition on his way to the Overall MVP prize.
Last year’s T20 MVP, Madsen, blasted Derbyshire to the last-eight, smashing 526 runs in the process – including four half-centuries along the way.
He finished way clear of the pack with his explosive batting causing carnage in the group stages while also chipping in with the ball, taking 13 wickets, usually by taking the new ball.
As a 39-time hockey international for South Africa, he is able to invent strokes and manipulate the ball to go to every corner of the ground.
2017’s Overall MVP and runner-up to Madsen in the T20 Rankings, Patel, inspired the Outlaws to their first T20 crown. The all-rounder was on-fire last season, especially in white-ball cricket, to help his county to the limited overs double.
Scoring 405 runs with the bat, he also took 16 wickets at just over 27 apiece with his spin bowling. The run of form led to calls of an England recall, but fortunately for Notts it never came and he continued to rack up the MVP points, finishing with 535 by the end of 2017.
Notts boost a number of huge hitters, but with Alex Hales missing the start of the competition due to national duty, it falls to Riki Wessels to lead the charge for the Outlaws. He was the first player from the county to score a T20 hundred last year (110 vs Derbyshire) and finished their top scorer with 559 runs.
Joe Denly comes into the competition in sparkling white-ball form. Finishing top of the One-Day Cup MVP Rankings, he was not able to inspire Kent one more time at Lord’s as they fell to defeat against Hampshire.
Finishing sixth in the T20 Rankings last year and ending as the top run scorer, he had a winter playing for the Sydney Sixers in the Big Bash and Karachi Kings in the Pakistan Super League where he endeared himself to the fans as he smashed runs and chipped in with useful wickets.
One man who is always challenging for the T20 MVP is Glamorgan’s Colin Ingram. The 2016 T20 MVP smashed more sixes than anyone else (30) in 2017, hitting two centuries including a career best 114, and was named in the PCA Team of the Year, largely due to his white-ball performances.
Finishing the campaign with 191 points, he at times, dragged Glamorgan through to Finals Day, and has been named their white-ball Captain for this season. He has had a steady start to the season in limited overs cricket, but the shortest format is where he really comes into his own.
There is a host of big-name players who take part in the summer extravaganza every year, but it would be amiss not to mention Lancashire’s Liam Livingstone. The 24-year-old will captain the Lightning this year after a disappointing campaign in 2017.
On his day, he is one of the most destructive batsmen in the world, and has a 21-ball fifty to his name. He goes into this tournament with something to prove, and a number of big performances will put him firmly back on the England radar.
You cannot mention destruction without giving a special mention to Colin de Grandhomme. The Kiwi has only spent one season with the Birmingham Bears but they already love him like one of their own.
Perhaps the most exciting prospect of the tournament is one of the PCA’s newest members, Rashid Khan, making his bow in English cricket for Sussex Sharks.
The Afghanistan international is one of the hottest prospects in world cricket which was backed up by his devastating IPL for Sunrisers Hyderabad, taking 21 wickets from his 17 games, justifying his $1.4m price tag.
Despite only being 19-years-old, Khan has already played 112 T20 games, taking a whopping 166 wickets at an average of 15.66 while going at less than a run-a-ball.
With the group stages starting on Wednesday and ending on 17 August, the quarter-finals will take place a week later with Finals Day at Edgbaston on 15 September.
To view the 2017 T20 MVP Rankings click here.