The Men’s Hundred 2022 Match 8 Preview: Birmingham Phoenix v Southern Brave August 10th
Wednesday brings up game eight of this year's The Hundred competition and marks the last day of solely men's action before the women's tournament gets underway on Thursday.
There is a mouth-watering match-up in prospect as the Birmingham Phoenix entertain the Southern Brave in what is a repeat of last year's final.
Strong start from champions
Southern Brave won the inaugural The Hundred last year, beating Birmingham by 32 runs in the final, and they kicked off this year's competition with positive intent.
In the first match a week ago, the Brave showed that they will not be giving up their title without a fight as they dismantled the Welsh Fire with an emphatic nine-wicket success at the Ageas Bowl with a whopping 31 balls to spare.
The champions made full use of winning the toss as their vaunted attack made immediate inroads into the Fire's line-up, with four different bowlers getting amongst the wickets as they restricted the visitors to 107-7.
Only Ben Duckett offered any meaningful resistance but, although the target was never going to be enough to trouble the hosts, the manner in which they cruised to victory will have sent out an ominous warning to the pretenders to their crown.
Fresh from leading Hampshire to the T20 Blast title, James Vince looks to be in the form of his life, slipping seamlessly into Hundred mode with a belligerent, unbeaten 71 coming off just 41 balls at a strike-rate of 173.17.
The elegant right-hander is an understandable and worthy favourite at 9/4 to be his team's top batter once again, having finished third in the scoring stats last season as well as his fine opening knock.
What perhaps makes Southern Brave more dangerous this year is an added depth to their batting line-up with Quinton De Kock, Tim David and Marcus Stoinis offering plenty of threat.
Big-hitting New Zealander Finn Allen has also been drafted in to beef up the middle order and he will have the added motivation to perform on Wednesday, having played for the Phoenix last year, and he is 11/4 to top Southern's run-scoring against his former franchise.
The Men's Hundred - Top Tournament Stats
Top Batter (Runs Scored)
Top Bowler (Wickets taken)
Phoenix need to rise from Rockets fire
Having twice beaten the Trent Rockets last year, Birmingham were second best against their derby rivals in their opener to this season's competition on Saturday, succumbing to a six-wicket defeat after being put into bat at Trent Bridge.
Last year's runners-up find themselves in sixth place in the table, although it is worth noting they lost two of their first three games before finishing top of the regular season standings.
Still, there appears to be something lacking in the bowling department and they may struggle to emulate last season's heroics.
The batting firepower came to the fore in that opening loss with Liam Livingstone smashing five sixes on his way to top-scoring with 47 from 28 balls, while Moeen Ali scored three of his own in his 21-ball 35.
However, the Phoenix weren't able to capitalise on the early dismissal of Dawid Malan and were ultimately unable to contain the likes of Alex Hales (58), Colin Munro (36) and Joe Root (34 not out) as the Rockets ran out comfortable winners.
Birmingham's preparations for the tournament were beset by problems and Adam Milne's absence due to an Achilles injury is a particularly big blow, as he finished joint top wicket-taker in 2021.
The bowling looks a little light and their best hope may be when chasing, due to their batting prowess, something that is not always guaranteed of course.
Mixed omens for final repeat
Birmingham won six of their eight games in the group stage last season with both defeats coming on the road as they made Edgbaston something of a fortress, with a perfect four wins from four.
Three of those four wins came when batting second as their line-up successfully chased targets of 145 (twice) and 173, although the most runs they scored came in amassing 184-5 in their last home contest when trouncing the Welsh Fire by 93 runs.
Moeen Ali top-scored for the hosts in two of the four matches at Edgbaston and is on offer at 3/1 to repeat the feat on Wednesday.
Although the Phoenix were unbeaten at home, they have yet to beat the Southern Brave in two previous meetings.
Livingstone crashed an unbeaten 68 to help his side post 151-3 at the Rose Bowl in the group stages, before Vince's 60 helped guide his side to a four-wicket win.
And of course, in last year's final at Lord's, the Brave racked up 168-5 first up with Livingstone's 19-ball 46 all in vain as his side fell 32 runs short.