Derbyshire are set to field debutants from Lahore, Auckland and Glasgow when the Falcons launch their 2018 Vitality Blast campaign at home to Lancashire Lightning at the 3aaa County Ground on Friday night.
Wahab Riaz, Lockie Ferguson and Calum MacLeod have all been signed in a bid to repeat last year’s success in reaching the quarter finals of the county T20 competition for only the second time in its history – and hopefully to go at least one better by securing a first appearance at Finals Day at Edgbaston in September.
Lancashire promise to be tough opposition, especially as they will have the benefit of having opened their campaign on Thursday night with a home game against Worcestershire Rapids – having signed Australian all-rounder James Faulkner to add to homegrown stars such as Liam Livingstone and Matthew Parkinson.
Derbyshire are hoping for a crowd of around 4,000 as they aim to build on last year’s success on and off the field.
And John Wright, the New Zealander whose appointment as specialist T20 coach triggered the improved Blast campaign, is ready for the challenge.
“The first goal is trying to get to the quarters,” he said. “It was disappointing for all of us last year when we didn’t get to Finals Day.
“ I think if we can match the standard we played at last year we’ll be very competitive but I think this year may be tougher because we probably slipped under the guard a little bit last year and now people know a bit more about what we are about as a team.
“But if we learned anything at all last summer it’s that we can compete and can be successful and we can beat anyone.
“Personally I was very impressed by the standard of the competition - there didn’t seem to be any team that wasn’t competitive and couldn’t beat anyone else on the day and I don’t think it’s going to be any different.
“So we’ll have to play our very best cricket but let’s hope we can actually improve and I think that’s the challenge for all of us. I think we’ve got the capability but it’s just that mental edge that we need to understand how to go about winning games, particularly when you’ve got the opposition under pressure, and that’s something we need to work on.”
Wright will again be assisted by former captain Dominic Cork, as bowling coach, and the Falcons have also recruited Scotland coach Grant Bradburn – who has come south of the border with MacLeod, the star of the recent defeat inflicted on England in Edinburgh.
But there has been one significant change to the club’s off-field set-up following the departure of Kim Barnett, who stepped down from his role as cricket advisor earlier this week.