Vitality Blast: Babar Azam, Alex Carey and Alex Hales among six to watch
Watch Notts vs Worcs on Thursday; Hampshire vs Sussex on Friday; and Kent vs Somerset on Saturday, live on Sky Sports Cricket
Last Updated: 18/07/19 7:06pm
Improvised shots, stunning catches and nail-biting finishes under lights - it's almost time for another roller-coaster edition of the Vitality Blast.
Holders Worcestershire Rapids get the 2019 tournament underway as they clash with Notts Outlaws under the Trent Bridge floodlights on Thursday, live on Sky Sports Cricket.
T20 cricket never fails to throw up some heroes - and we've spotlighted six of the names to look out for over the coming weeks.
BABAR AZAM (Somerset)
According to current ICC rankings, Babar is the world's best T20 international batsman and he also arrives at Taunton on the back of an impressive World Cup, finishing as Pakistan's top run-scorer by some distance.
Originally selected as an ODI player, Babar has gone on to become a consistent T20 performer at international level, building up a healthy average of 54 and a strike rate approaching 130.
Babar's arrival should further strengthen a Somerset batting line-up that already includes seasoned veterans such as James Hildreth and Lewis Gregory, along with exciting young prospect Tom Banton.
PAT BROWN (Worcs)
Last year's Blast was a memorable one for the Rapids, who defeated Sussex to claim the trophy for the first time - and gangly seamer Brown was very much the breakout star of the competition.
The 20-year-old bamboozled batsmen throughout the tournament, mixing up pace and variation as he picked up 31 wickets at 13.35, including four in the semi-final win against Lancashire.
Brown's performance in the final also proved his worth in a pressure situation - his four overs cost only 15 runs as Worcestershire succeeded in pegging their opponents back to a below-par total.
ALEX CAREY (Sussex)
Although Australia failed in their attempt to win a sixth World Cup, the one-time Aussie Rules footballer made a major impact on the tournament, both with the bat and behind the stumps.
Carey posted a better average than any other Australian batsman bar David Warner, with his 85 against South Africa a particularly memorable knock, and finished the tournament with 20 dismissals.
The left-hander joins an already powerful batting unit, with experienced campaigners like Luke Wright and Laurie Evans more than capable of dominating the opposition and ensuring that the 2018 runners-up are again among the favourites.
ALEX HALES (Notts)
It hasn't been the best of years so far for the hard-hitting Nottinghamshire opener. Having failed to shine during England's T20 series in the West Indies, he was then unceremoniously dumped from their World Cup squad after failing a drugs test in April.
Yet the 30-year-old's pedigree in white-ball cricket has never been doubt, with more than 5,500 T20 runs to his name - and the Blast offers him an ideal platform from which to push his name back into the international reckoning.
Hales gives the Outlaws genuine power at the top of the order, playing a big part in their Blast triumph of 2017, and the county have only once failed to qualify for the knockout stage since he became a first-team regular.
IMRAN TAHIR (Surrey)
We won't be seeing his eye-catching wicket celebrations in ODI cricket any more - but expect plenty of rampages across the Oval turf from the much-travelled leg-spinner once the Blast gets underway.
The South African veteran retired from 50-over internationals after the World Cup, having captured far more wickets - 173 - in that format than any other spinner to represent his country.
Surrey will be the eighth English county Tahir has represented and, although it's now a decade since he tasted T20 success with Hampshire, the 40-year-old's assortment of googlies and leg-breaks should help to make his new employers competitive.
SAQIB MAHMOOD (Lancs)
Provided he can overcome the abdominal injury that kept him out of Lancashire's most recent County Championship game, Mahmood should be a force to be reckoned with in the Blast.
The 22-year-old paceman played a key role in Lancashire's white-ball side earlier in the campaign, finishing as the Royal London Cup's leading wicket-taker with 28 scalps to take the Red Rose to the last four.
Mahmood displayed the ability to rip the heart out of an innings more than once in the 50-over tournament and, if he can transfer that tendency to the shorter format, Lancashire look a good bet for another appearance at Finals Day.