The Tilney T20 Blitz for 2020 gets underway this Sunday when the Caledonian Highlanders take on the Eastern Knights in two matches at Forfarshire’s Forthill ground.
With the Western Warriors exciting looking squad of youth and experience waiting in the wings to play next week it is shaping up to be a great tournament which runs until September 27.
The Knights will probably go into the event as the team to beat, but they were turned over by the Highlanders in this format in 2019 and, on paper, there is little to choose between the squads assembled.
Captained by Scotland cap Dylan Budge, with the bat the Knights have players who can blast bowlers out of the attack early on like Oli Hairs.
He smashed 114 off just 33 balls for Scotland A last week in a T16 game against the Performance Academy while Watsonians skipper Mike Carson can also hit a long ball.
Budge himself and Fin McCreath are others to look out for with the bat in the absence of George Munsey who is on Vitality Blast duty with Hampshire.
With the ball, seamers like Carlton’s Ali Evans and Elliot Ruthven and Joe Kinghorn-Gray, the Heriot’s duo, will be backed up by quite a few spin options including Grange trio Jamie Cairns, Charlie Peet and James Dickinson and Scotland man Mark Watt.
Their head coach Steve Gilmour said: “With guys like George and Tom Sole unavailable it opens up opportunities for others, but over the last couple of years we have trained with an extended squad and we know that all the guys can step up and do a job when required.
“There are youngsters like Jamie Cairns, Charlie Peet and Tom Mackintosh who are still at school, but are quite experience and guys like Dylan, Oli Hairs and James Dickinson lead by example.
“Oli can take games away from people, but you need more than one player to win a match and I think we have a well-rounded group.”
Although it happened nearly 13 months ago now, the Knights players will still remember the Highlanders posting 219-5 against them at The Grange in Edinburgh last year which led to a 57 run win.
Highlanders player/head coach Craig Wallace set the tone in that game with two early sixes and the 30-year-old, who is also currently training for a charity cycle in memory of former team mate Con de Lange, is excited about the T20 Blast.
“The core of the squad is the same as 2019 while for this Sunday we are boosted by having Scotland captain Kyle Coetzer available and just having someone of his experience around will help the others in the group,” Wallace stated.
“Safyaan Sharif is also available and he is a very good bowler in white ball cricket while captain Michael Leask always leads from the front well and the guys are champing at the bit to play.
“It is also good to have guys like Jamie King involved, he is a seam bowler who can bowl at the end of innings and he has just come back from Australia.
“We know all about the Knights, but we have belief in our squad and I think the next few weeks are going to be very competitive.”
Every good T20 side these days needs good spinners and with the likes of Leask, Heriot’s Ryan Brown and Forfarshire’s Jack Hogarth they are well served in that area while seamer Adrian Neill has looked sharp in his limited outings this summer.
The Warriors are set to play an inter-squad game this weekend as they continue the build up to welcoming the Highlanders to Clydesdale’s Titwood ground on Sunday, September 20 for two matches.
They may well be without Calum MacLeod in the coming weeks, earlier this week he joined Sussex for the remainder of the Vitality Blast, but their batting line-up looks strong.
Matthew Cross has shown his quality with Scotland for a number of years while Mike Jones scored 82 for Durham in the second innings of their drawn Bob Willis Trophy match versus Nottinghamshire this week and last year’s Scotland under-19 skipper Angus Guy is improving all of the time.
And of course they are skippered by Richie Berrington, ranked the fourth best T20 all-rounder in the world currently, and he will play a big part with both bat and ball.
Seamer Gavin Main will lead the bowling efforts along with spinner Hamza Tahir who has taken 18 wickets in his 11 T20Is with his country to date.
“We have a good blend within the Warriors set-up,” head coach Andy Tennant said.
“The group are excited to get stuck in and the youngsters have really worked hard over the last couple of years and are making my job of getting things down to a matchday squad of 12 or 13 difficult.
“Adil Ghaffar, Angus Guy and others are ones to watch for the future and they are very proud to represent the Warriors.
“And to have someone like Hamza Tahir in the group is invaluable because we have seen in the recent international series on TV just how important spin is throughout the innings in this format and Hamza has worked so hard at his game.”