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T20 Blast 2023 preview: Hampshire defend T20 title in wide-open heat

The T20 Blast starts on Friday with 18 county teams hoping to make it to Finals Day at Edgbaston on Saturday 15th July.

Hampshire beat Lancashire by one run in a nerve-jangling final last season and both sides are expected to be serious title contenders again.

Hampshire are 9/1 to retain their crown and Lancashire are 7/1 - but it is a wide-open heat and there have been 13 different champions in the first 20 years of the English domestic Twenty20 competition.

WhatT20 Blast 2023
WhereFinals Day at Edgbaston, Birmingham
WhenFriday 20th May to Saturday 15th July
How to watchSelected group-stage matches and every knockout game shown live on Sky Sports Cricket
OddsLancashire 7/1, Surrey 15/2, Hampshire 9/1, Somerset 9/1, Birmingham Bears 10/1

Settled holders Hampshire primed for a strong title defence

Hampshire joined Leicestershire as the most successful county in T20 Blast history by winning their third title in a thrilling final against Lancashire.

With Lancashire needing four runs to win off the final ball, Australia paceman Nathan Ellis bowled Richard Gleeson and Hampshire celebrated victory as fireworks went off around Edgbaston.

However, a no ball was called and Ellis had to come back and finish the job for a second time, delivering a slower ball that deceived Gleeson and sealed a dramatic one-run win.

Ellis and fellow Australian Ben McDermott, who was man of the match in the final for his 62 off 36 balls, return for another crack at the Blast this summer and Hampshire look a decent bet at 9/1

The final went down to the wire, but Hampshire eased past Somerset by 37 runs in the semi-final and thumped Birmingham Bears by 104 runs in the quarters and the arrival of T20 ace Benny Howell strengthens what was already the best bowling attack in the competition. 

Lancashire at 7/1 should go well again, having cruised to a target of 205 in their 2022 semi-final win over Roses rivals Yorkshire, and 15/2 shots Surrey are aiming to make up for their near miss last summer. 

Surrey were the inaugural T20 champions in 2003, but their 2022 tilt ended with a one-run quarter-final defeat to Yorkshire at The Oval, where they needed just five runs off the last over with five wickets in hand.

West Indies spin king Sunil Narine and brilliant England all-rounder Will Jacks are among the trump cards in a hugely talented Surrey side who are 3/1 to win the South Group, as they did last year with 10 victories from 13 completed group games.

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Experienced bowlers boost Somerset's 2023 hopes

Somerset produced a stunning performance in the 2022 quarter-finals, racking up 265-5 against Derbyshire at Taunton, before bowling out the visitors for 74 to seal a 191-run rout.

They will have been disappointed with their Finals Day defeat to Hampshire, but New Zealand's Matt Henry and Australia's Peter Siddle bring vast experience to the bowling attack and Tom Kohler-Cadmore joins an exciting batting unit including Tom Banton, Will Smeed, Tom Abell and Tom Lammonby.

Somerset are 9/1 to win the T20 Blast, while Birmingham Bears supporters will be looking forward to seeing new signings Moeen Ali and Glenn Maxwell in tandem once the Indian Premier League has finished.

Moeen will captain the Bears and, along with dynamic Australia all-rounder Maxwell, he can make up for the departure of Adam Hose, who has joined Worcestershire after a great Blast campaign in 2022.

Outsiders Leicestershire could enhance impressive T20 record

Nottinghamshire, Yorkshire and Sussex, captained by veteran Ravi Bopara after the retirement of Luke Wright, are also prominent in the betting while Northamptonshire and Leicestershire are worth considering at bigger odds.

Northants are 16/1 with experienced Australian stars Chris Lynn and Andrew Tye returning to Wantage Road - along with England all-rounder David Willey, who will captain the side.

Willey had a spell with Royal Challengers Bangalore in this season's IPL and has returned to the club he helped win the Blast in 2013.

Like Northamptonshire, Leicestershire missed out on the quarter-finals by one point in last year's T20 Blast North Group, but they have a nice blend of youth and experience and can kick on this term.

The Foxes are 14/1 to win the North Group and have retained the services of last summer's leading T20 runscorer Colin Ackermann and their top wicket-taker, canny Afghan seamer Naveen-ul-Haq.

All-rounder Rehan Ahmed, who became England's youngest Test cricketer when he made his debut against Pakistan in December, is another gem for Leicestershire, who were the dominant force in the early years of this competition and could outrun their odds this summer.

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