Worcestershire Rapids will get their NatWest T20 Blast 2017 campaign underway with a mouth-watering home clash with local rivals Birmingham Bears.

The "sold out" signs are guaranteed at New Road on July 7 for the meeting with the Bears over whom the Rapids completed a memorable double last season.

They triumphed by five wickets at Edgbaston thanks to an unbeaten 62 from Brett D'Oliveira and won the return encounter by the same margin with George Rhodes returning 4-13 and Daryl Mitchell hitting 61.

The T20 Blast has traditionally been launched in mid May but this year the group fixtures will be fought out in a six week block from early July to mid August before the quarter-finals and then the traditional finals day at Edgbaston on Saturday, September 2.

The Bears showdown is the first of FOUR successive home fixtures in the T20 Blast for The Rapids who narrowly missed out on a fourth quarter-final in five years in 2016.

It is an opportunity to gain early momentum on home soil in the group stages and assistant-coach Matt Mason revealed the determination and belief of the squad to seal a first ever finals day spot.

Mason said: "We will start the season like every year with promotion in the County Championship high on the agenda – but I think the T20 Blast is another competition our lads really do believe they can win.

"We just need to be more consistent in our performances in that competition.

"We are one of only two teams not to make it to finals day which is a frustration to Bumpy (Steve Rhodes) and myself and everyone I guess because we are certainly good enough.

"Two years ago we had the blip in the quarter-final and last year we started so well and just dropped away.

"We are all keen to put that right this year and maybe having the fixtures in a block might be of benefit to us, getting on a roll with that momentum and keeping it going."

After the Bears clash, the Rapids will entertain Leicestershire Foxes, Derbyshire Falcons and Lancashire Lightning before the first away game with Yorkshire Vikings.

FIXTURES

JULY

7 Birmingham Bears HOME

14 Leicestershire Foxes HOME

19 Derbyshire Falcons HOME

21 Lancashire Lightning HOME

23 Yorkshire Vikings HEADINGLEY

26 Notts Outlaws TRENT BRIDGE

27 Northamptoshire Steelbacks NORTHAMPTON

30 Durham Jets HOME

AUGUST

4 Birmingham Bears EDGBASTON

5 Northamptonshire Steelbacks HOME

11 Durham Jets EMIRATES RIVERSIDE

13 Notts Outlaws HOME

16 Lancashire Lightning EMIRATES OLD TRAFFORD

18 Derbyshire Falcons 3AAA COUNTY GROUND

22-25 T20 BLAST QUARTER-FINALS

SEPTEMBER

2 T20 BLAST FINALS DAY EDGBASTON