2024 Vitality Blast – Pundits’ Predictions


Excitement is reaching fever pitch as the beginning of the Vitality Blast draws ever closer.

Essex get their campaign underway on Thursday with a trip to the Seat Unique Stadium to take on Gloucestershire, before showcasing their skills in front of the Sky Sports cameras against Somerset in Taunton on Friday night.

With the thrilling entertainment of the Blast now only days away, we assembled a five-strong panel of experts to tell us what they think this year’s tournament might have in store.

Those who gave their predictions were commentators Aatif Nawaz and Kevin Howells of the BBC, Charles Dagnall from the BBC and Sky Sports, BBC Essex’s Sports Editor Victoria Polley, and freelance cricket writer Sam Dalling.

How do you think Essex will perform in the 2024 Vitality Blast?

Aatif Nawaz: I expect Essex to do really well this season. It’s a really strong and balanced squad. At the very least, I’d predict a quarter-final berth.

Charles Dagnall: I think they will perform well, and I fully expect them to make it back to the quarter finals and perhaps Finals Day – not doing that would be disappointing. Having Daniel Sams back is a big boost, but I think the bowling attack is so well balanced with fantastic power hitting in the top and middle order.

Kevin Howells: I can’t think a reason that suggests that small step from runner up to winners won’t happen. The ingredients are all in place again, with Daniel Sams an overseas who can win matches. Add Jordan Cox who, with that immense strike rate and experience, has the talent to fill that gap left by Dan Lawrence.

Victoria Polley: It was disappointing to see Essex come so close last season and not be the ones lifting the trophy at Edgbaston but I have high hopes that Essex will get there again. They have a strong, pretty much unchanged squad and a clear way of playing under the captaincy of Simon Harmer. And thanks to the stats from my colleague Paul – they tend to do well when it comes to winning titles in General Election years!

Sam Dalling: Finals Day as a minimum. After that, well, it’s a bit of a lottery isn’t it?!

Who do you think will be Essex’s one to watch?

AN: I think Daniel Sams will have a huge impact. Such a class act. Best player in the competition last season.

CD: Jordan Cox. Fantastic addition to the ranks after the departure of Dan Lawrence. Thrilling batter with a huge repertoire of shots 360 degrees around the ground and electrifying in the field.

KH: Shane Snater has caught the eye in the early part of the season. He’s the sort of player who can go unnoticed, like Matt Critchley too, yet the figures show they are match winners. Hopefully a fit-again Paul Walter can entertain just as he was doing in the Big Bash last winter. The Aussies love him and so do crowds here.

VP: The one addition to the Essex line-up I’m looking forward to seeing is Jordan Cox. He’s an exciting white ball player and he clearly has big ambitions about being involved with England so I can’t wait to see what he can bring to the Essex squad for the T20 Blast. He’s shown what he can add to the red ball team so I’m hoping for more of the same in this format.

SD: Jordan Cox. This boy is going to be special. In fact, he already is. Red-ball runs have flowed freely and I expect the white-ball tap to be on. He has already won this comp and was previously a star performer in the final. Gun fielder too!

Who will be the Eagles’ leading run-scorer?

AN: Michael Pepper. Showed flashes of magic last season, a really exciting player to watch. I reckon he’ll rack ’em up!

CD: I see a lot of players contributing, but to avoid sitting on the fence – which I’m prone to doing – Adam Rossington.

KH: Why look anywhere but last season with Sams and Pepper, but I’ll go as far as picking Jordan Cox. I have a feeling he will kick on again this year with a new team.

VP: I’ll go with Daniel Sams as the leading run-scorer. He was such a valuable player to Essex in last year’s competition and came so close to winning it for Essex.

SD: For the reasons outlined above, Jordan Cox!

How about Essex’s leading wicket-taker?

AN: Sam Cook. Already looked quality in the Championship, I expect him to carry that form into the white ball game.

CD: I think one of the spinners, and it’s too easy to say Simon Harmer, so I’m going for Matt Critchley. Both are wonderful cricketers!

KH: I’m going Matt Critchley to pip Sams this year. The margin might be just a few but he has a big impact on games and is getting better with each year.

VP: Sam Cook has been on fire so far this season and I’d back him to have another good campaign in the shorter format of the game.

SD: The easy choice, but also the people’s choice: Sam Cook. I adore this man. It would have been easy for him to swerve white-ball cricket at his pace, but instead he has developed a world-class skill set.

Which Essex youngster are you tipping to break through in 2024?

AN: I think Feroze Khushi will have a breakthrough year. Something about him. Definitely a special talent.

CD: Robin Das! He’s the only one I’d consider young! Although some of the lads I watched for the England under-19s this winter would be good to see. Luc Benkenstein and Noah Thain have great promise and potential.

KH: Luc Benkenstein. I’ll be surprised if the the 19-year-old, whose all-round potential is being talked about a lot, doesn’t get a decent go this season in this format. He’s returned some impressive figures in the seconds already, and he’s a confident lad who should get the Essex crowd on their feet.

VP: It’s hard to tell which Essex youngsters will be involved with such a strong squad to pick from but Noah Thain has had some Championship experience already this season and is handy with the bat and ball, while I’d say the same about Luc Benkenstein if he was to get a chance. Both had great experience with England U19s over the winter.

SD: Is it cheating to say Feroze Khushi? He’s played 20-odd games already but watching this lad is a joy. I saw his red-ball century up at Chester-le-Street earlier in the summer and wouldn’t be surprised if a T20 one is just around the corner.

Who is your player to watch out for from the South Group overall?

AN: Ryan Higgins at Middlesex. A devastating player on his day and he’s just starting to hit a purple patch. The start he’s made to the Championship this year makes me think it’ll be a big year for him.

CD: There’s so many to choose from, but I think Lewis Gregory is up there as one of the best cricketers in the country. The amount of times I’ve seen him change a game with bat or ball is astonishing and he’s an excellent tactical captain too. He won’t lead the run-scoring or wicket-taking charts, but he wins games.

KH: This won’t make me popular but across the estuary – and only there for a few matches – Xavier Bartlett at Kent and up the road at Surrey, Spencer Johnson. They light up my winters watching them in the Big Bash and I suspect they might be lighting up a few bails this summer here.

VP: Can I say Daniel Sams again? He was the MVP of the tournament last season after all!

SD: Cheating again, but I’m going to give you two. Batter: James Vince. For the umpteenth year, James Vince will do James Vince things, and it will be glorious. Bowler: Riley Meredith. The world is obsessed with pace right now, and this boy has miles per hour to spare. Bails. Will. Zing.

Finally, who are your tip to win the entire Blast in 2024?

AN: Sorry Eagles. I have to be honest. I think it’s Birmingham Bears’ year. Twice they’ve had outstanding runs and fallen short in the quarter-finals. If they get past that hurdle, I can see them creating a fairytale finish on Finals Day at Edgbaston.

CD: Essex of course! I’m a local now, so have to go with my home side. I think they’ve got a great chance but I also have a sneaky feeling for my old club Birmingham Bears. Essex beat them in that thrilling quarter-final last season but I like the Bears additions. I think it could be their year.

KH: Well if you don’t want me to say Essex or Somerset, how about Hampshire Hawks. I think Michael Neser is a big signing, and vital part of the Brisbane Heat success in the BBL, plus Ben McDermott is box office. They have proven success over many years and it took a tight DLS game to beat them in the semi finals last year.

VP: I know when they have won it they haven’t necessarily been the favourites but I’ll say Essex.

SD: Finals Day could be pretty much the same line-up as 2023. As for the winner, I’m going with the heart – sorry, I am a Somerset fan! – and will say that B2B titles are on the cards for the Cidermen. Don’t rule out Durham, though. Ryan Campbell has them playing an exciting brand of cricket, and I reckon they could flourish.

The Eagles Have Landed: The 2024 Vitality Blast at The Cloud County Ground

Fresh from a Finals Day appearance last summer, Essex return to shortest-format action in Chelmsford from Sunday 02 June.

Demand remains exceptionally high, and there are now only 15% of tickets remaining across all seven home fixtures, with two already sold out.

With the Eagles aiming to go one better in 2024, there is no time to waste to snap up your seats.

Sunday 02 June, 4:00pm: Essex v Middlesex – buy here
Friday 07 June, 7:00pm: Essex v Glamorgan – buy here (LAST FEW TICKETS)
Friday 14 June, 7:00pm: Essex v Sussex Sharks – SOLD OUT
Thursday 20 June, 7:00pm: Essex v Hampshire Hawks – buy here
Friday 05 July, 7:00pm: Essex v Somerset – SOLD OUT
Thursday 11 July, 7:00pm: Essex v Kent Spitfires – buy here
Sunday 14 July, 2:30pm: Essex v Surrey – buy here