The Vitality Blast continues on Thursday evening when another four matches take place across the two groups as the English domestic T20 competition starts to fire into life ahead of the first deep day of action on Friday.
We have a couple of matches from both groups on Thursday evening but unfortunately there is no TV coverage of either of them so in order to follow any of the action we will need to load up the wonderful county streams.
The pick of the matches in the North Group on Thursday evening comes from Edgbaston where two former winners of the competition meet in the early start as the Birmingham Bears, who probably should have made finals day last year, take on Northamptonshire, who will be looking for a much better season than they produced last year. The other match in this group comes from Grace Road where Leicestershire welcome Durham in a match between two sides who start the competition with high hopes and will hope to still have them intact after this game.
We have four sides beginning their campaign in the South Group on Thursday evening as well and the first of those comes from Radlett where Middlesex will look to show their best stuff when they take on a Gloucestershire side who will be looking to fire their season into life after a slow start to the Championship. The other match comes from Hove where Sussex will be looking to emulate their run to finals day last season when they start their campaign off against possible dark horses in the Royal London Cup winners Glamorgan.
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I’ll go with a couple of bets over the course of the evening with the first of those on Gloucestershire to beat Middlesex. Middlesex have been notoriously poor in this format of the game for too long and there is a very youthful nature to their squad this year, especially while the likes of Jason Behrendorff is away at the IPL. Middlesex are without two of their three leading bowlers from last season in Steven Finn who has moved on and Nathan Sowter and Steven Eskinazi is an inexperienced captain which is never a good thing in this format. Gloucestershire have been one of the better teams in the South Group in recent times with the likes of David Payne, Benny Howell and Ryan Higgins offering class with the ball with the latter two also more than useful batters. Naseem Shah is fit again to bolster the bowling unit while Glenn Phillips, the second highest run scorer in the tournament last year, is here already too. Gloucestershire are always dark horses in this competition and I think they can get their campaign underway with a win in this one.
The other bet I like comes at Grace Road where I’m expecting a high scoring match between Leicestershire and Durham, or a higher scoring match than the bookmakers are anticipating at least. The run line for this match is 312.5 but I think that is low because the wicket at Grace Road is always a good one for batting in one day cricket. The outfield is quite big here so the boundaries don’t necessarily flow but the runs usually do and while both teams have a couple of good bowlers – Naveen and Parkinson for Leicester and Raine and Carse for Durham, they can all be expensive on their day. Both teams have classy overseas batters in their ranks and with this being the first game of the season they can all play with freedom. There were 338 runs when these two met here last year and I’m expecting something similar in this one so I’ll play the over here.
Back Gloucestershire to beat Middlesex for a 3/10 stake at 1.73 with Coral
Back them here:
Back Leicestershire vs Durham – Over 312.5 runs for a 3/10 stake at 1.83 with Bet365