The Vikings travel to Edgbaston on Saturday for the Vitality Blast’s brand spanking new innovation, two games in the day – both in front of the Sky Sports cameras and a large crowd – to kick off the competition in blockbuster fashion.
Derbyshire Falcons versus Lancashire Lightning (2.30pm) is followed by Birmingham Bears hosting Yorkshire under the floodlights, with Pakistan batting star Masood taking charge of his new county for only the second time.
“It’s going to be interesting,” said ex-Falcon Masood. “It’s a good concept to get people engaged, and we should try it out. If it works, it will be amazing. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t matter.
“It will be good to meet up with my old county. They will be playing before us, and I will be there.
“It’s an exciting day, and we have two quality matches. And it’s at Edgbaston. I love playing there.”
Yorkshire return to the venue where they finished last year’s event, beaten in a high-scoring morning semi-final at Finals Day by Lancashire.
Masood, who has replaced David Willey as Blast skipper, is confident of a return to Finals Day, hoping to go much deeper into the day and lift Yorkshire’s maiden Blast title and their first limited overs silverware since 2002.
“I think we’re covered in all departments,” he said, assessing Yorkshire’s squad.
“You ask for good batters who are flexible in T20 cricket. I don’t necessarily look at one type of strike-rate, I look at batters who are flexible and can play any kind of role and situation. We do have that.
“We have some world-class players in the batting department. We have a leg-spinner (either Adil Rashid of Jafer Chohan), which is always a treat in T20 cricket.
“We also have some decent seamers who can bowl well up top and can finish well.
“Then, we’re getting the guru David Wiese coming in.
“I will be leaning on him a lot. I’ve seen what Lahore Qalandars do from afar in the PSL. Shaheen (Shah Afridi) is a great captain, but he uses the brains of Wiese a lot. I think I’ll be giving a lot of things to him to look after.
“He’s a world-class player, and I’m excited to be playing with him for a change rather than against him.”
On the start of the Blast in general, Masood continued: “I’m very excited. T20 has been one format that I’ve played a lot in the last few years. If I’m right, I’ve played close to 60 games since the start of last summer with Derby.
“It’s a format I’ve picked up a lot from and grown a lot from as a player.
“We had a lot of success with Derby last year, getting to the quarter-finals, and I’m hoping that whatever good I gained and what lessons I learned from that experience, we can apply it for Yorkshire and mix it with the quality that is already available.
“It’s been a good couple of years for me in T20 cricket, and I’d like to carry that forwards with Yorkshire.”
Just as Yorkshire had a near miss with Blast glory last year, Masood has gone close to success himself a few times recently.
Since winning the Pakistan Super League with Multan in 2021, they have been beaten finalists in each of the last two years. Most notably, he played in Pakistan’s T20 World Cup final defeat to England at Melbourne in November just gone.
“The World Cup was a very close miss and one that still hurts because I feel that a lot of times within that game we were in with a shout,” he reflected.
“We played some brilliant cricket in that game.”
It will be interesting to see where Masood bats for Yorkshire in the Blast.
He opened for Derbyshire last year and scored 547 runs in 14 matches, including five fifties. In the World Cup for Pakistan, he batted at four. He top-scored in the final with 38.
With Dawid Malan and Adam Lyth available for Saturday, it may be that he doesn’t face the new ball. But it’s not something that he is at all hung up on.
“I’m flexible,” he added. “I’ve had a lot of success as an opener, but when I raised my hand for the middle order position with Pakistan it worked for me.
“I’m not going to fixate on one position because I feel if you do that you make yourself one-dimensional. I don’t want that.
“When I’ve played T20 cricket over the last year, I’ve batted one to four and have done equally well in all positions. I’m happy to bat wherever the team requires me to.”
Birmingham, champions in 2014, topped the North Group last season as Yorkshire finished fourth. But they lost their quarter-final at home to eventual champions Hampshire, bowled out for just 82 in pursuit of 187.
Former Viking Glenn Maxwell has been signed as one of their two overseas players, but he will not be available until the end of the month due to IPL commitments.
Ireland batter Paul Stirling will act as cover and will play this weekend, while Pakistan fast bowler Hassan Ali has been with the county since the start of the season and will be available through until the end of July.
The Bears and the Vikings have traded 10-wicket victories in the last two Blast meetings between the two at Edgbaston. Yorkshire won last year’s chasing 102. Now departed Willey claimed three wickets and Lyth hit an unbeaten 58.