Vitality Blast: Lowdown on every South Group team
Last Updated: 17/07/19 6:04pm
After narrowly missing out on Vitality Blast glory last season, Sussex Sharks launch their bid to go one better on Friday night, live on Sky Sports Cricket.
The Sharks, who were runners-up to Worcestershire Rapids last year, begin their Blast campaign against 2017 winners Hampshire at the Ageas Bowl.
We examine the prospects for both Sussex and Hampshire, as well as the other seven South Group contenders, in the second part of our team by team preview:
Overseas signings: Mohammad Amir (Pakistan - plays eight of the first 10 games), Adam Zampa (Australia).
The Narrative: Essex have made it to just four Finals Days - their most recent in 2013 - and never beyond lunch when they have reached the showpiece day. They have finished second-bottom and third-bottom in the South Group in the past two seasons.
Star Man: Mohammad Amir - The Pakistan quick returns following a personally satisfying World Cup campaign in which he took 17 wickets. He claimed 14 T20 scalps when he played for Essex in 2017 at an economy rate of 6.78.
Mr Consistency: Varun Chopra - Something of a white-ball specialist in recent years, topping the Essex run aggregate charts in the past two T20 campaigns with a combined 930. His clean striking of the ball brought him an eye-popping 26 sixes in the 2017 season.
Under the radar: Adam Wheater - The rapidly maturing wicketkeeper was elevated to open last season to lay the foundations alongside Chopra. With the signing of Cameron Delport, Wheater's rapid run-accumulation will be put to equally good use towards the latter stages of the Essex innings.
Killer Stat: Cameron Delport's 49-ball ton for Islamabad United against Lahore Qalanders in March was the fastest century scored in Pakistan Super League history.
Overseas signings: Fakhar Zaman (Pakistan - first eight games), Mitchell Marsh (Australia - joins after four games at least).
The Narrative: Glamorgan have reached just two Finals Days - albeit the last two summers ago - but enter this year's tournament in high spirits with just one defeat in the Championship and designs on promotion.
Star Man: Colin Ingram - The skipper has been Glamorgan's leading run-scorer for the past three years and his performances have been rewarded with inclusion in all the leading T20 competitions around the world.
Mr Consistency: Graham Wagg - The 36-year-old all-rounder is one of those players that continues to endure on the domestic scene with a combination of smarts with the ball, heavy hitting with the bat and a competitive instinct.
Under the Radar: Dan Douthwaite - Signed at the start of the season after impressing with Cardiff MCCU, the 22-year-old bats in the middle order, can strike the ball vast distances and is also a useful medium pace bowler. He gave a glimpse of his all-round potential in front of the Sky Sports cameras at Sussex during the Royal London One-Day Cup.
Killer Stat: Ingram holds the Glamorgan record of scoring the fastest century in T20 cricket - 46 balls against Sussex at Arundel in 2017.
Overseas signings: Michael Klinger (Australia), Andrew Tye (Australia)
The Narrative: While Gloucestershire's prime objective this summer is promotion in the County Championship, they anticipate a strong Vitality Blast challenge, having only missed out on the knockout stages of the Royal London One-Day Cup on run-rate.
Star Man: Andrew Tye - A late developer, the seamer was 26 when he made his debut for Western Australia. Now 32, he was a member of the Australia A squad who visited England this summer.
Mr Consistency: Benny Howell - The 30-year-old all-rounder has become renowned for his variety of delivery as a medium-pacer in one-day cricket, using different grips on the ball to bamboozle batsmen.
Under the radar: Tom Smith - The former Middlesex left-arm spinner has become an integral member of Gloucestershire's T20 side since joining the county in 2013, bowling in mid-innings with a consistently good economy rate.
Killer stat: Gloucestershire have never won the County Championship or the T20, finishing second six times in the longer format, and losing to Kent at Edgbaston in the final of the 2007 T20 Cup, their best effort in the competition.
Overseas signings: Chris Morris (South Africa)
The Narrative: Hampshire are out for redemption and revenge. The county suffered their worst T20 campaign in over a decade when they managed just two wins last year - and are still hurting from their Royal London One-Day Cup final defeat to Somerset.
Star Man: Rilee Rossouw - Has the nickname 'The Entertainer' for a reason; crowds are rarely bored when he is at the crease. The South African's strike-rate of 146 for Hampshire is by far the highest in the current side.
Mr Consistency: Liam Dawson - Second in the Hampshire statistics for wickets, runs and catches in 2018, there are not too many more rounded all-rounders than Dawson. The left-arm spinner epitomises control in all aspects of his game.
Under the radar: Aneurin Donald - The big hitting batsman is finding form at the right time, recently hitting 225 runs in the County Championship at a strike-rate of 118 to warm himself up for the Blast.
Killer stat: No team has more than Hampshire's seven Finals Day appearances.
Overseas signings: Adam Milne (New Zealand), Mohammad Nabi (Afghanistan).
The Narrative: Backed by dynamic fielding, no-holds-barred batting and overall nous with the ball, the Spitfires have excelled in white-ball cricket for the past three seasons without clearing the final hurdle to Finals Day.
Star Man: Joe Denly - The PCA Player of the Year topped Kent's T20 batting averages last summer with 409 runs at a strike rate of 145. A classy batsman and athletic fielder, he also took 20 wickets with his vastly improved leg-spin to head the Spitfires' bowling averages.
Mr Consistency: Daniel Bell-Drummond - The former England Lions batsman has underpinned Kent's recent white-ball success with his stand-and-deliver approach to top-order batting and will be looking to add to his one T20 century against Surrey at Tunbridge Wells in 2016).
Under the radar: Alex Blake - A Kent academy graduate and white-ball specialist whose 'range hitting' can turn a game on its head in a handful of overs, as well as being a dynamic fielder with a gun arm and safe pair of hands.
Killer stat: Mohammad Nabi has 294 wickets from his combined 283 T20 appearances in domestic T20 leagues and Afghanistan, returning 10 four-wicket hauls.
Overseas signings: AB De Villiers (South Africa - available for at least the first seven matches), Mujeeb Ur Rahman (Afghanistan).
The Narrative: Middlesex finished bottom of the South Group last season with just two wins, losing their final eight games. However, the team's white-ball game showed notable signs of improvement in the Royal London One-Day Cup where they reached the play-offs.
Star Man: Paul Stirling - While he will miss some of Middlesex's early games due to Test commitments with Ireland, hard-hitting Stirling provides an explosive presence at the top of the batting order, having racked up over 4,500 runs in T20 cricket.
Mr Consistency: Nathan Sowter - Leg-spinner Sowter has developed an encouraging knack of taking wickets in T20 during the last two years, especially in his first over.
Under the radar: George Scott - All-rounder Scott has featured regularly for the first XI this season and, as well as hitting the ball a long way, he is an outstanding fielder either inside the circle or guarding the boundary.
Killer stat: Tom Helm's figures of 5-11 against Essex in 2017 are the best by a Middlesex bowler in T20.
Overseas signings: Jerome Taylor (West Indies), Babar Azam (Pakistan)
The Narrative: Director of cricket Andy Hurry has publicly targeted all three domestic trophies this summer. So far, his confidence has been justified by the club winning the Royal London One-Day Cup and sitting second in the County Championship.
Star Man: Jamie Overton - Having worked on a greater variety of delivery, the tall seamer with genuine pace claimed 24 wickets in last summer's Vitality Blast, a tally bettered by only two other bowlers in the competition.
Mr Consistency: Max Waller - The experienced leg-spinner has developed into a T20 specialist, renowned for his miserly economy rate and not afraid to open the attack when called upon.
Under the radar: Tom Banton - The 20-year-old batsman announced himself with a brilliant Royal London One-Day Cup campaign this season and is already being compared to Jos Buttler for his range of strokes all around the wicket.
Killer stat: Lewis Gregory had a strike-rate of 202.46 in last season's Vitality Blast, the highest by any batsman who made more than three appearances.
Overseas players: Aaron Finch (Australia), Imran Tahir (South Africa)
The Narrative: Since winning the inaugural Twenty20 Cup in 2003 the Brown Caps have been runners-up twice, in 2004 and 2013, and also made Finals Day appearances in 2005, 2006 and 2014. They just missed out on a quarter-final place last season.
Star man: Aaron Finch - The opener plundered 589 runs from only nine innings in last year's South Group fixtures, averaging a remarkable 147.25 and scoring two hundreds and three fifties.
Mr Consistency: Rikki Clarke - The all-rounder will be 38 in September but he was an ever-present in last year's Blast with 235 runs at an average of 47 and 16 wickets at 23.56 runs apiece. In 160 career T20 matches, Clarke has scored 2,245 runs and taken 112 wickets.
Under the radar: Will Jacks, still only 20, already has Championship and List A hundreds to his name and has the power and range of strokes to explode in T20 cricket. A brilliant fielder, he also bowls useful off-spin.
Killer stat: They say T20 is a young man's game, which must make Surrey one of the big favourites for the Vitality Blast title this year with a squad that includes Tom Curran (24), Sam Curran (21), Ollie Pope (21), Conor McKerr (21), Ryan Patel (21), Will Jacks (20) and Jamie Smith (19).
Overseas signings: Rashid Khan (Afghanistan - first half of tournament), Alex Carey (Australia).
The Narrative: After losing in last year's final the Sharks are confident of going one better. Despite the likely absence of Jofra Archer, they seem to have all bases covered and would feel they have underachieved if they do not make Finals Day again.
Star Man: Alex Carey - A real coup to sign the Australian one-day star, who has won the Big Bash with Adelaide Strikers and was named in the Team of the Tournament for the World Cup. A top-class keeper, he has a T20 strike rate of 128.93 and will play a key role in the top five.
Mr Consistency: Will Beer - The leg-spinner has become an integral part of Sussex's T20 team during 12 years at the county. He rarely gets clobbered and has a habit of getting good batsmen out.
Under the radar: Reece Topley - The left-armer was good enough to play for England in 16 white-ball internationals and, having recovered from back injuries, he has a huge incentive to relaunch his career.
Killer stat: When he made a half-century in last year's final, it was Luke Wright's 300th T20 appearance. Among domestic players, only Ryan ten Doeschate and Ravi Bopara have played more games.