ENGLAND star Moeen Ali has been named Worcestershire Rapids captain for the 2018 Vitality Blast campaign which kicks off with a trip to Lancashire Lightning tomorrow (Thursday) before the sell-out home clash with the Birmingham Bears on Friday.
The 31-year-old will lead the side in the short format of the game subject to when his England commitments allow – Moeen is currently part of the England T20 and one-day squads for the games with India which conclude on July 17.
Brett D’Oliveira will take over the reins as Blast captain for the start of the campaign, a role he is currently occupying for a trio of Specsavers County Championship matches.
Moeen can call upon a vast amount of international and county experience to aid him in his first official captaincy role with the county as during the winter he skippered England in a two day game against an Australian XI in Perth.
He previously led Worcestershire at first team level for two County Championship and two 40-over games in May 2011 and before that was England Under-19 captain at the 2005-2006 World Cup in Sri Lanka.
Head coach Kevin Sharp said: “We had earmarked Mo to be the official T20 captain and he is delighted to have the opportunity to lead the Rapids and is relishing the fresh challenge that it will present to him.
“Although he has not a great deal of actual captaincy experience, he has a vast amount of knowledge to call upon and has played with and against some fine captains during the past five years at international level.
“We have a powerful-looking side in Blast cricket and Mo would love nothing better than to lead the county to a first finals day appearance.
“He is highly respected in the dressing room and there are players in there with vast experience who he can call upon and I’m sure they will only be too willing to give their help and advice if required.”
The Rapids will now focus on the short format of the game for the next three weeks during which time they will play six Blast matches before the next Championship match against Somerset at New Road from July 22 to 25.
Australian big-hitter Callum Ferguson will return to the Rapids line-up alongside Kiwi Martin Guptill in what looks to be an explosive batting line up as the county chases its first appearance at Finals Day since the short-format tournament started more than a decade ago.
Ferguson and wicketkeeper-batsman Ben Cox did not feature with the rest of the senior squad in Monday’s two Second XI T20 matches against Leicestershire.
Sharp said this was only a precautionary measure and is confident the duo, who finished first and second in Rapids’ batting averages in the Royal London One-Day Cup, will be ready to face the Lightning.
“He has played two magnificent innings and the one against Leicestershire is as good as you will see in 50-over cricket,” he said. “It was a very special knock which was beautifully executed and a pleasure to watch. He loves the game, is a good man and fits really well into our dressing room.”