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2023 Vitality Blast: Your essential guide to the T20 tournament, live on Sky Sports

Who are the England stars hoping to fire ahead of the World Cup? Which overseas stars are set to impress? And who are favourites to win in 2023? Watch the Vitality Blast live on Sky Sports, starting with a Saturday double-header - live on Sky Sports Cricket from 2pm

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Countdown to the action, the excitement, the drama and the glory as the 2023 Vitality Blast kicks off, live on Sky Sports!

The Vitality Blast is back! The domestic T20 tournament blasts into action on Saturday with a double-header live on Sky Sports. Ahead of its return, here’s all you need to know about the 2023 tournament…

Watch the Vitality Blast live on Sky Sports

Sky Sports will broadcast 25 exclusively live games from the 2023 Vitality Blast, following the tournament from opening day on Saturday May 20 right the way through to the carnival atmosphere of Finals Day at Edgbaston on Saturday July 15.

Live Vitality T20 Blast Cricket

It all kicks off with a double-header this weekend, starting with Derbyshire Falcons versus Lancashire Lightning (2.30pm), followed by Birmingham Bears versus Yorkshire Vikings (6.30pm), with live coverage getting under way on Sky Sports Cricket from 2pm.

Hampshire Hawks celebrate their victory on Finals Day of the 2022 Vitality Blast
Image: Hampshire Hawks celebrate their victory on Finals Day of the 2022 Vitality Blast

We'll get our first glimpse of defending champions Hampshire Hawks on Wednesday night, as the three-time winners visit Somerset - live on Sky Sports Cricket from 6.45pm - while Surrey are in action twice in as many days on opening week, with their London derby against Middlesex at Lord's on Thursday and then a home clash against Kent Spitfires on Friday, both live on Sky Sports Cricket from 6pm.

Live Vitality T20 Blast Cricket

What is the format for 2023 season?

The tournament follows the same format as last year, with the 18 county sides split into separate North and South Groups.

NORTH GROUP: Birmingham Bears, Derbyshire Falcons, Durham, Lancashire Lightning, Leicestershire Foxes, Northamptonshire Steelbacks, Notts Outlaws, Worcestershire Rapids, Yorkshire Vikings.

SOUTH GROUP: Essex Eagles, Glamorgan, Gloucestershire, Hampshire Hawks, Kent Spitfires, Middlesex, Somerset, Surrey, Sussex Sharks.

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Each side plays 14 group games, seven at home and seven away, between May 20 and July 2, with the top four teams in each pool progressing to the quarter-finals in early July.

The winners of the North Group will face the fourth-placed team in the South Group in the quarter-finals and so on and so forth, with the winners of the quarter-finals advancing to Finals Day at Edgbaston on Saturday, July 15.

England World Cup places to be won

A jam-packed summer of international cricket gets under way on June 1 as England host Ireland at Lord's, just over a fortnight before the first Ashes Test at Edgbaston on June 16.

It means that England's Test players are unlikely to feature much in the Blast this season but, at the same token, there is the small matter of a 50-over World Cup title defence on the horizon in India in October/November. The Vitality Blast boasts a number of England white-ball specialists set to star in that tournament or, at the very least, players desperately keen to advance their case to be selected for it.

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Punjab Kings' Sam Curran hit a brilliant 26-ball fifty for Punjab Kings against Mumbai Indians in the IPL

Sam Curran (Surrey) was named Player of the Tournament when England won the T20 World Cup last autumn, while the explosive six-hitting exploits of Liam Livingstone (Lancashire), Phil Salt (Lancashire) and Jason Roy (Surrey) will be on display once they all return from the IPL following its conclusion later this month.

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The Punjab Kings were defeated by Delhi Capitals despite Liam Livingstone hitting an explosive 94 from 48 balls!

Moeen Ali (Birmingham) is another currently starring in the IPL, but he will captain the Birmingham Bears in his first year back at Edgbaston, while David Willey (Northants) also returns home to Northamptonshire this season and will skipper the Steelbacks following his stint in India.

Willey, the desperately unlucky man to miss out on England's World Cup-winning squad in 2019 to make way for Jofra Archer, will be keen to press his claims for selection this time - as will the likes of Saqib Mahmood (Lancashire) and Matthew Potts (Durham) - after recent injuries to Archer, Olly Stone and Reece Topley.

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Eighteen-year-old Rehan Ahmed takes his first wicket on his ODI debut for England

Another England star to watch out for in this year's Blast is 18-year-old leg-spin sensation Rehan Ahmed (Leicestershire), who exploded onto the scene to earn maiden international caps across all three formats over the winter.

Overseas stars set to blast off!

Big-hitting all-rounder Glenn Maxwell stands out as the box-office overseas signing of the Blast, with the Australian taking up residence at Edgbaston with the Birmingham Bears this summer.

Glenn Maxwell of Australia celebrates reaching his century during the 3rd Royal London One Day International Series match between England and Australia at Emirates Old Trafford on September 16, 2020 in Manchester, England.
Image: Big-hitting Australian all-rounder Glenn Maxwell will line up for Birmingham Bears in this year's Vitality Blast

Staying in the midlands, but heading east, Notts Outlaws have pulled off a real coup to bring in ferocious Pakistan left-arm paceman Shaheen Afridi, while Kent Spitfires will certainly benefit from the death-bowling expertise that Australia's Kane Richardson will provide down in Canterbury.

Pakistan's Shaheen Afridi celebrates taking the wicket of England's Alex Hales during the final of the T20 World Cup Cricket tournament at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in Melbourne, Australia, Sunday, Nov. 13, 2022. (AP Photo/Asanka Brendon Ratnayake)
Image: Pakistan left-armer Shaheen Afridi will add searing pace to the Notts Outlaws bowling attack

Lancashire Lightning will bring a couple of Kiwis to the table, with the explosive power-hitting of Colin de Grandhomme paired with the relentless run-scoring of Daryl Mitchell, a man who England fans know all about after his exploits with the bat on New Zealand's tour to these shores last summer.

Surrey have snapped up West Indian spinner Sunil Narine, who will be very familiar with his Kia Oval surroundings, having also played there for Oval Invincibles in the The Hundred over the past two years, and while there is no Rashid Khan down in Sussex this season, the Sharks have replaced the Afghanistan leg-spinner with another expert tweaker in Pakistan leggy Shadab Khan.

Who are favourites for 2023?

With James Vince again leading the way with the bat, and as captain, the defending-champion Hampshire Hawks should once again content for the title. They won in the most thrilling fashion on Finals Day in 2022, triumphing over Lancashire Lightning by just one run to claim the competition a joint-record third time (level with Leicestershire Foxes).

James Vince
Image: James Vince is a relentless run-scorer in T20 cricket and should have Hampshire Hawks in contention again in 2023

Notts Outlaws are another dangerous outfit. Winners in 2017 and 2020, the Trent Bridge outfit will be looking to bounce back this year after breaking a streak of five-straight seasons with at least a quarter-final berth last summer.

Lancashire should also again be in the mix. The 2015 champions finished as runners-up to Hampshire last year, meaning they themselves are now in the midst of a streak of five consecutive seasons of having at least reached the quarter-finals.

Two other teams who reached that stage last year who could well be in contention again in 2023 are Birmingham Bears and Surrey, who have, incredibly still yet to win the tournament for a second time following their 2003 triumph in the inaugural season of the competition 20 years ago.

Vitality Blast key fixtures live on Sky

Saturday, May 20

Derbyshire Falcons vs Lancashire Lightning - live on Sky Sports Cricket, 2pm
Birmingham Bears vs Yorkshire Vikings - live on Sky Sports Cricket, 6.15pm

Wednesday, May 24

Somerset vs Hampshire Hawks - live on Sky Sports Cricket, 6.45pm

Thursday, May 25

Middlesex vs Surrey - live on Sky Sports Cricket, 6pm

Friday, May 26

Surrey vs Kent Spitfires - live on Sky Sports Cricket, 6.15pm

Monday, May 29

Durham vs Notts Outlaws - live on Sky Sports Cricket, 6.30pm

Thursday, June 1

Yorkshire Vikings vs Lancashire Lightning - live on Sky Sports Cricket, 7pm

Saturday, June 3

Hampshire Hawks vs Sussex Sharks - live on Sky Sports Cricket, 7pm

Wednesday, June 7

Kent Spitfires vs Essex Eagles - live on Sky Sports Cricket, 6.30pm

Thursday, June 22

Surrey vs Middlesex - live on Sky Sports Cricket, 6.30pm

Friday, June 30

Lancashire Lightning vs Yorkshire Vikings - live on Sky Sports Cricket, 7pm

Sunday, July 2

Final round of Vitality Blast group games

Saturday, July 15

Finals Day, Edgbaston

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