Chris Gayle is preparing for his Somerset debut on Friday with Matthew Maynard hailing him as the county’s new Viv Richards.
Gayle will follow in the footsteps of his fellow big-hitting West Indian when he features against Essex Eagles at Chelmsford in the NatWest T20 Blast South Group.
Richards represented Somerset between 1974 and 1986 and made 11 limited-overs centuries in addition to 47 in the first-class game.
And Maynard said of Gayle: “Anyone who can score 14 centuries in T20 cricket has to be a phenomenal player. He will make a big difference to our dressing room, raising the confidence levels of the younger players just through rubbing shoulders with him.
“It’s like it used to be with Viv Richards. You couldn’t hope to emulate what he did, but you could try to copy the attitude he had towards his batsmanship.”
Gayle will form a formidable opening partnership with Marcus Trescothick, with Jim Allenby dropping to number five.
— Max Waller (@MaxTCWaller) May 27, 2015
Both teams will be looking to turn around their early form in the Blast, with Essex having lost three of their four games while Somerset were defeated by Sussex Sharks in their only outing so far.
Ryan ten Doeschate says the Eagles are “determined to put matters right”, adding: “We believe that we have got a high-quality top seven and in the course of a season, they will win you matches.
“But in the four games we’ve had so far, only Ravi Bopara has put his hand up to win us a game and that’s disappointing. It’s something we need to sort out.”
On the presence of Gayle in the opposition ranks, Ten Doeschate added: “Chris Gayle is an exceptional Twenty20 player so it’s going to be a good test for us.”
Sam Northeast has led Kent Spitfires to victories in their opening two matches and will continue as captain against Surrey after Robert Key handed the job over to concentrate on his own batting.
Northeast added: “I am really enjoying the captaincy and I think I am going to do it for at least the next month and then we’ll see where we are.
“It’s quite strange having Keysy in the team and him not being captain, because we are all so used to him leading, but it’s great to be able to have him around for any advice I might need.”
Like this week’s LV= County Championship clash between the sides, the game will be played at Kent’s Beckenham outground and Surrey captain Gareth Batty said his side were looking forward to it – though the ground’s short boundaries are a worry for him personally.
“I’m not sure I’m looking forward to it too much as a spinner!” said Batty.
“There are bound to be a lot of runs scored in this match, if previous games on the ground are anything to go by.”
Australia all-rounder Moises Henriques is expected to make his Surrey debut as the club’s second overseas player alongside Kumar Sangakkara, who needs just another 43 runs to reach 4,000 in all T20 cricket.
“I think Moises will fit in very nicely with us,” added Batty.
“We will have to see exactly where he bats in our line-up but it will be somewhere in the top five, and his bowling also makes him a genuine all-rounder.”
Glamorgan will give a debut to their own overseas player, Wayne Parnell, against Hampshire after the South Africa paceman was passed fit following groin trouble.
Head coach Toby Radford said: “Hampshire have plenty of good batters in their line-up, but it is great that we have Wayne available for selection and hopefully we can have a good following behind us and put in a performance to match.”
Hampshire’s win over Essex in their tournament opener was their only success in any format this season and they fell victim to Kent batsman Alex Blake’s astonishing match-winning innings last Friday.
— NatWest T20 Blast (@NatWestT20Blast) May 23, 2015
Batsman Jimmy Adams said: “We need a win. That would change things so much. We need to be far more ruthless.
“Glamorgan have started pretty well and they’ll be up there in the South Group. There is no question of us being worried but we have got to improve.”
Sussex Sharks’ Mahela Jayawardene is enjoying his first season in the Blast following scores of 39, 43 and 36 against Kent, Gloucestershire and Somerset.
“From a personal point of view it’s not going too bad,” he said ahead of the game against Middlesex Panthers. “I’m hitting the ball pretty well and getting starts but I’m a bit disappointed I haven’t been able to kick on and get some big runs.
“But I know I am doing a lot of things right. If I stay patient when I get into the 30s and 40s hopefully I can get those big runs that will benefit the team.”
Spinner Will Beer goes into the game in exceptional form after his figures of 3-23 against Somerset earned him his second successive man-of-the-match award in the tournament.
Middlesex will be playing their second game in successive days after Eoin Morgan led them to a 115-run win over Kent at Lord’s.
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