Michael Carberry's man of the match innings of 60 kicked off Hampshire's 2013 FLT20 campaign as champions.
Champions Hampshire raced out the blocks in the opening fixture of this year's FLT20 tournament with a 5 wicket victory over Surrey. Michael Carberry was the star of the show. The Hampshire opener helped his side easily reach Surrey's below par score of 140. With fixtures now coming thick and fast shuffled in between Ashes Tests, it'll be difficult for the average cricket fan to keep track or at times care about the competition. However there are still plenty of exciting overseas talents on show to wet the appetites of the most cynical of county cricket faithful. The questions thus arises which of the counties possess the best T20 weapons money can buy. Here they all are in no particular order. You decide?
Battle of the overseas: Which County has the best hand?
Derbyshire (Shiv Chanderpaul / Albie Morkel)
Whilst Chanderpaul's involvement might be limited, the 38 year old veteran still has plenty of runs left in him as Surrey found out last month. If called upon, he's still capable of anchoring an innings with his ability to maneuvere the ball and a strike rate of 106 intact.
Albie Morkel is a brilliant signing for the county and could prove to be one of the players of the tournament. He may be South Africa's forgotten man on the International circuit, but possesses an utterly devastating talent with the bat. Approaching 200 wickets in the shortest format he's certainly no mug with the ball either.
Simon Katich has been in sensational form for the red rose county. Australia's loss has certainly been Lancashire's gain. The journeyman Aussie will be looking to help the county win their first ever T20 competition.
Mitchell McClenaghan has emerged as a force to be reckoned with on the International limited overs scene. His impressive showing in the ICC Champions trophy has meant not many will bet against him taking a bag full of wickets in this year's FLT20.
Leicestershire (Shakib Al Hasan)
The street smart former Bangladesh captain Hasan has a wealth of experience and could potentially help the most successful county in this format return to the glory days. it might not happen however as the county have a relatively young squad. I guess hey'll have to do what Alex Ferguson did in the mid 90's with Manchester United and win with a bunch of kids.
Being bowled by Lancashire for 20 will become a distant memory for Essex if they can win the competition this year, and I wouldn't put it past them. Rutherford dispatched the English bowlers to all parts in an International T20 recently and is a batsman of serious pedigree. If he gets going, Shaun Tait is the box office player fans will pack the stadium to see. The sight of a 90mph+ bowler roaring in is rare these days, and Tait is arguably the World's fastest at present. Since retiring from other formats and focusing on T20s his accuracy levels have improved considerably. If he brings his A game, Essex could rank as outsiders.
Hampshire (Sohail Tanvir)
The champions will be attempting to make history by being the first County to defend a T20 title, and despite their opening fixture win may well struggle. Sohail Tanvir was a hot ticket a few years ago and cashed in to become one of the most sought after T20 bowlers in the world. Since then, batsmen around the world have got used to his awkward action. His 4 overs in the opening fixture cost nearly 10 a piece. He'll need to do a lot better than that if Hampshire are to retain the title.
Kent (Vernon Philander)
South Africa don't seem to trust Philander with the white ball. However he's proven many people wrong in the past. No one could've envisaged his phenomenal success given his lack of out and out pace. His control of line and length is nothing short of world class and with nearly 90 wickets at 17 a piece at Test match level, who'll argue against that?
Mills and Voges are currently well established Internationals in their respective sides, but are they box office? Middlesex have gone for a safe option by signing two steady eddys. Only time will tell if that proves to be a sound investment.
Surrey (Ricky Ponting, Glen Maxwell)
Signing of Ponting is a shrewd one in that it will draw sentimental crowds to the ground but may not affect the outcome of many games. The Australian legend is on his last legs having already announced his delayed retirement from the game. It might be difficult to watch him if he struggles. Glenn Maxwell has seen his T20 stock rise in recent times and his all round ability will be an asset.
The gift of Scotty Styris just keeps on giving. Unlike Ponting the Kiwi all rounder has no plans on retiring and will look to push Sussex towards success this year. Dwayne Smith's involvement in Mumbai Indian's IPL campaign this year was somewhat limited, but when given the chance he was explosive at the top of the order. He's in good form and Hove could see some fireworks from him this year.
Gloucestershire (Dan Christian)
The Australian all rounder has become an established T20 player. His performances have led to a steady residency in the IPL and despite his chances being limited this year due to some Gayleforces in Banglore, he remains a gun player for the county. His world class fielding along with his ability with bat and bowl may well inspire the county to reach the knockout stages.
Since bursting onto the scene with the fastest T20 International century on record, Richard Levi's career has proceeded at a glacial pace. Undoubted hand eye co-ordination is his biggest asset but the inability to strike the ball anywhere but the leg side has proved his Achilles heel. Whilst age is on his side, he must learn to adapt quickly. Northants have faith in him, and will be hoping he reproduces some of the flamboyance that gained him International success in this format. Cameron White's wealth of experience and hard hitting are unquestionable but whether he'll be able to lift a squad which isn't the strongest in the competition out of the group stages remains to be seen.
With a barrage of accurate yorkers and late order hitting Yasir Arafat will be hoping he can finally help Somerset step up from silver to gold this year. Alviro Pietersen has been in good form recently and his steady anchoring innings will be crucial if Somerset are to be crowned champions this year.
Warwickshire (Jeetan Patel)
Glancing across at all the overseas from the other counties, Warwickshire appear to have drawn the short straw. If the recent batting tracks and good weather are anything to go by Patel could go for a lot of runs in the competition. Warwickshire will be lucky to qualify from the group.
Much like David Hussey, McCullum has played second fiddle to his brother for long parts of his career. Just like Hussey however McCullum has a lot to offer the Welsh county. His offspin, his fielding and his hard hitting middle order batting will be indispensable for the 2013 season if they are to qualify for the knockouts.
Nottinghamshire (David Hussey)
Talk of the devil! David Hussey is a proven T20 batsmen of incredible talent. However unfortunately he is suited to the county under unfortunate circumstances. Despite having a wealth of talent, misfortune and underachievement have been the story for both Hussey and Notinghamshire. This could be their year and as his elder brother has shown, Hussey is more than capable of performing heroics, even at 36.
Worcestershire (Andre Russell)
It's not quite Chris Gayle, but Worcestershire's Jamiacan overseas this year is certainly explosive. Andre Russell bowls heat and can hit a long ball if needed. His stint in the IPL has gained him vital experience and control in his bowling displines. Whilst Phil Hughes' absence this year may prevent them from reaching the quarterfinals this year, Russell's performances are sure to excite the crowds at New road.
image: © nedrichards
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