MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - MAY 15:  Steven Croft of Lancashire celebrates hitting the winning runs off the last ball with team mate Jordan Clark during the NatWest T20 Blast match between Lancashire and Leicestershire at Old Trafford on May 15, 2015 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images)
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND – MAY 15: Steven Croft of Lancashire celebrates hitting the winning runs off the last ball with team mate Jordan Clark during the NatWest T20 Blast match between Lancashire and Leicestershire at Old Trafford on May 15, 2015 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images)

By Ayyaz Malik

Nottinghamshire produced arguably the performance of the night as they beat defending champions Birmingham Bears by eight wickets in the first round of matches of the Natwest T20 tournament. The 20/20 tournament format which has been a global phenomenon will see English county sides go head to head in regional groups such as the North section and the South.

The tournament which will be spread over  three months sees the likes of world class players such as Brendan McCullum and Shahid Afridi bless the English T20 game. There were several matches being played such as Surrey vs Glamorgan and Gloucestershire vs Middlesex – but the headline of the night surely was Nottinghamshire’s win over defending champions Warwickshire.

Warwickshire who go by the name of Birmingham Bears for this event are the defending champions of this event and are able to boast of a very strong batting line up – but that made little difference tonight as Notts came out on top in this one. The experienced Luke Fletcher was the chief tormentor as his spell of bowling put Birmingham bears in real trouble at 52-4.

At this point the Bears were in serious danger of crumbling – but some valuable contributions from captain Varun Chopra who scored 80 and Laurie Evans who chipped in with 35, allowed the defending champions to get to 140,  a score which always seemed not enough – and so it proved.

Nottinghamshire who boast of having Alex Hales in their ranks, went about their run chase in brutal fashion. Hales who has been overlooked for England of late was in particularly  in an unforgiving mood. The 25 year old Hales who was once ranked the number one T20 player in the world reminded the world of what he can do.

Alex Hales who confirmed that he will join up with Indian premier league side Mumbai Indians, blasted a quite brilliant 86 off 43 balls which included eight sixes. Mumbai Indians star Haleshelped Nottinghamshire Outlaws win this match at a canter as the Outlaws won with five and a half overs to spare.

Elsewhere lasts years beaten finalists Lancashire won their opening game against Leicestershire in what can only be described in rather fortuitous fashion.  The Lightning who opened that campaign at home were initially on the back foot in this encounter.

Leicestershire who have seen  changes in  in their coaching staff for this season started this one in impressive fashion. The Midlanders who have won this tournament in the past managed to score 100 runs with in 13 overs for the loss of just two wickets.

Under the cosh and maybe starting to look void of ideas, Lancashire were in need of some inspiration and luck – which came in the form of the good old Manchester weather. The visitors who were cruising and looking in complete control at that time, lost their momentum after the rain break.

After being in a position of complete supremacy Leicestershire found that wasn’t the case anymore as they collapsed from 106-3 to 131-7. Due to the bad weather this match was reduced to 15 overs a side so maybe Leicestershire had some hope – but the momentum was with Lancashire after their bowling performance,  or so you thought.

In what was proving to be a difficult match due to the deteriorating conditions saw Lancashire slip to 57-4. The home side at this point still just about had the advantage in this one – but the scoreboard and the decreased overs meant, this one was never truly over until it’s over.

Lancashire after bowling themselves back into contention were in serious danger of throwing this match away – but as they say cometh the hour cometh the man. In Lancashire’s case it was their captain Steven Croft who hit a quite brilliant 70 off just 39 balls which helped the Red Rose side claim a win on the last ball.

Across the Pennines Yorkshire who are the kings of longer format of the game, got their campaign underway against Derbyshire with an easy win in the end. Derby who boast of having Hashim Amla in their ranks were by no means pushovers. Despite possessing some impressive batsmen on paper, Derbyshire really disappointed i n this one.

Asked to bat by Yorkshire, Derbyshire were in all sorts of bother after losing six wickets even before 100 was on the board for them. Even an eye catching 18 ball 27 by wicket keeper Thomas Poynton could make much difference as Derbyshire were all out for 128.

Credit for a low Derbyshire score must go to Yorkshire’s bowlers and in particular Matthew Fisher who claimed 5-22 in 3.2 overs.

Chasing what was a low score, Yorkshire got their run chase off to a catastrophic start, Andrew Hodd was bowled out first ball by Benjamin Cotton first ball. The visitors got just the start they needed – and it even got better for the Midlanders as Alex Lees was caught by Hashim Amla off the bowling Mark Footit.

Derbyshire at this point were really sensing that an upset was on the cards (especially the way Derbyshire batted). Sadly though for the visitors captain Andrew Gale and Yorkshire’s man of the moment Jonny Bairstow put on 69 for the third wicket, which effectively killed the game off as a contest.

There was time for Benjamin Cotton to get his second wicket as he had Yorkshire captain caught behind by Thomas Poynton – but the match was effectively over by then. Yorkshire did duly win this one – and they did with some three and a half overs to spare.

In the other matches their wins for Glamorgan, Hampshire and Kent. The T20 blast which has been in the spotlight for low attendances last year and failing to capture the imagination of fans – has got off to a good start this year, here is to hoping for more of the same.