HOLDERS Worcestershire Rapids have received a massive fillip for when they launch their defence of the Vitality Blast title with Moeen Ali available for their opening two matches.

The star all-rounder has been given the green light to play by England in Thursday evening’s encounter with Notts Outlaws at Trent Bridge and the following evening’s sold-out meeting with Birmingham Bears at Blackfinch New Road.

Moeen has been part of the triumphant England ICC World Cup-winning squad and made five appearances in the tournament for his country.

The 32-year-old captained the Rapids to glory in last September’s finals day triumph over Lancashire in the semi-finals and Sussex in the final.

He made significant contributions with bat and ball and his calmness in the captaincy role in the cauldron at Edgbaston were key elements.

Moeen will be making his first appearances of the summer for Worcestershire after a hectic spell of international cricket.

With New Zealander Martin Guptill also set to join up with the Rapids after being part of the Black Caps side narrowly beaten in the ICC World Cup final, it is a mouth-watering Rapids line-up for the start of the Vitality Blast North Group campaign.