MARTIN Guptill believes Worcestershire Rapids are capable of making a strong defence of their Vitality Blast title this summer.

The New Zealand batsman smashed 86 not out off just 31 balls in Sunday's nine-wicket T20 win over Durham and with Riki Wessels (74) plundered 148 from 8.5 overs.

Victory lifted Rapids, for whom Guptill made seven Blast appearances last summer, into second spot in the North Group.

It was another impressive team performance similar to the one produced in the away victory over Notts Outlaws and returned Rapids to winning ways after Friday's 21-run defeat at Lancashire Lightning.

Guptill said: “Can the team make a strong title defence? Absolutely. We’ve got a great squad, very strong, and we bat a long way down the order.

“We’ve got some very talented bowlers in the line-up as well.

“There are also guys sitting in the wings itching to have a go as well that can do the job if they get the chance.”

Regarding the partnership with Wessels and performance against Durham, Guptill added: “I guess as a team it was a pretty good all-round performance.

"They got off to a good start, we managed to pull it back towards the end after it looked like we could be chasing 190-plus for a period.

“Our boys pulled it back pretty well with the ball and obviously a big partnership at the top of the order always helps.

“What was it like for myself and Riki? We were certainly enjoying it.

"When your partner is hitting big sixes and you are matching him, it is always good fun and we were just trying to get things done as quickly as possible.

“Was I seeing it like a football? People say that but I never find that I am. It’s always nice to get a few out of the middle but the way Riki started the chase it is all down to him and then I followed suit.

“We wanted to get off to a good start. With chases like that, a good start is always needed.

“If you lose two early wickets, it is always an uphill battle but the way Riki started striking the ball and the way I joined in we were ahead of the game from the start.

“We didn’t play well enough at Old Trafford. We know that. We turned it around nicely against Durham.”

Rapids are next in action when Derbyshire Falcons visit Blackfinch New Road on Wednesday (5pm).

Meanwhile, Moeen Ali and England will be playing for more than The Ashes during the next few weeks.

The Worcestershire all-rounder and his international team-mates will also participate in the inaugural ICC World Test Championship.

It will begin via the first Test against Australia at Edgbaston on Thursday.

For the first time in Test cricket, points are on offer for the winner of each match in a series meaning there’s something to play for at all times.

All nine nations have celebrated the launch of the championship which sees 72 matches contested between this August and June 2021.

Each Test series offers 120 points, split equally among each of the matches with points on offer for winning or drawing the match.

Each nation will play six series in the two-year competition with the final in June 2021 between the top two in the table.