- Saturday May 20, 2023 (2.30pm and 6.30pm)
It’s a cliche, but an obvious fact as well. All four sides involved in Blast Off - Derbyshire, Lancashire, Birmingham and Yorkshire - will be hoping to finish this competition where they started it given Finals Day will also be at Edgbaston in mid-July.
Lancashire and Birmingham are the ones I’d be backing to get off to a flying start this weekend.
Lancashire were last season’s finalists, only denied the title in a last-ball finish by Hampshire. They look strong again and will pick two from three available overseas players, Dane Vilas, Colin de Grandhomme and Daryl Mitchell.
The Lightning have only lost twice to Derbyshire in the last five seasons of the Blast. One of those was in the last meeting between the two at Derby last season, but I see them extending their recent domination and would be taking the 8/13 on offer with William Hill.
Birmingham, with Hasan Ali and Paul Stirling as their overseas - Glenn Maxwell isn’t available until the end of the IPL, are hoping to match their 2014 title success and make up for a quarter-final exit last summer.
Chris Woakes is available against a Yorkshire side who are in a situation where everything that could go wrong is doing. They are bottom of the Division Two Championship table and, in T20 terms, have lost key duo David Willey and Tom Kohler-Cadmore to other counties.
New captain Shan Masood is a quality overseas signing, but their other signing David Wiese is unavailable due to IPL commitments.
Vbet have the Bears at 4/5 to claim this encounter, a price I would also be taking.
The Lightning-Bears win double is 1.92/1 with the same company.
Derbyshire Falcons v Lancashire Lightning, 2.30pm
Lancashire will choose two from three available overseas players, and I’d expect it to be New Zealand all-rounders Colin de Grandhomme and Daryl Mitchell.
De Grandhomme is facing his former county, and I like the look of bet365′s player performance market for this match. They are offering 5/6 on him to top the 31.5 mark. That is a point per run, 10 per catch and 20 per wicket.
Luke Wells is a staggering 15/2 with bet365 to be Lancashire’s top batter. What is even more staggering is that the price has come down from an initial 12/1.
He scored 120 off 61 balls opening the batting for their second-team yesterday - against Derbyshire at Old Trafford - and with Keaton Jennings out injured I’m sure he will fill that role against the Falcons in this first-team affair.
I’d be interested in siding with him at 4s or 5s, so 15/2 is a price I’d be jumping all over for a genuine batter who opens the batting in Championship and 50-over cricket as well and who has the ability to take any attack apart.
Birmingham Bears v Yorkshire Vikings, 6.30pm
England bowler Matthew Fisher is set to spearhead Yorkshire’s attack this weekend. It would only be his 40th career appearance, but he averages more than a wicket a game (43 from 39) and has a five-wicket haul to his name - on debut actually in 2015.
I quite like the look of the 9/2 on offer with Unibet on him to be Yorkshire’s top bowler in this fixture.
On Sky, the start of a tournament, a special new innovative day. I expect the pitch to be pretty good to bat on.
These two sides have enough batting talent to produce a century - Sam Hain, Paul Stirling, Adam Lyth, Dawid Malan and Shan Masood to name just five.
Unibet are offering 9/1 on a century to be scored, and I would be having a dart at that for low stakes.
* Betting odds correct at the time of publication. All odds are subject to changes.
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