The Men's Hundred 2022 Match 2 Preview: Oval Invincibles v London Spirit
Oval Invincibles and London Spirit kick off their men's The Hundred campaigns in a rivalry clash on Thursday with both looking to improve on last season.
Live Scores and Stats - Oval Invincibles v London Spirit
The Invincibles narrowly missed out on the playoffs in 2021 and will look to at least take that next step this time around, while the only way is up for Spirit as they finished bottom of the standings after a hugely disappointing campaign.
Invincibles have the tools
The Oval outfit look to have as good a first XI as anyone, on paper at least, and do offer some value at 13/2 go all the way this season and win the title, while they are available at 11/4 to reach the final.
Tom Moody is an excellent coach with plenty of experience in all formats, and he knows what it takes to be successful in this competition having led the Invincibles to glory in the women's The Hundred last year.
The Invincibles finished just a point behind Trent Rockets last season and will have rued the fact that their clash with whipping boys London at Lord's was washed out, as they had a superior net run rate to the third-placed side.
Of course, any result is possible, particularly in this the shortest of formats, but the Spirit proved no match for anyone last term, losing six of their eight games, and that washout ultimately proved costly.
Moody's men may well be motivated by that near-miss and look to have strength on both sides of the ball with the addition of Rilee Roussouw looking a shrewd bit of business, as he brings plenty more firepower to a batting line-up that already includes Jason Roy, Will Jacks and Sam Billings.
Reece Topley has found another level with the ball having starred for England over the summer and he could well be the standout star in an attack that has the deceptive Sunil Narine, who also adds to the all-rounder options alongside Sam Curran.
Roy form a worry
Roussouw's arrival gives the side a lift going into their opening clash on Thursday, with the South African having smashed 623 runs to help Somerset reach Finals Day in the T20 Blast earlier this season, and he may well thrive on the Oval pitch.
However, much of the Invincibles success could hinge on whether Roy rediscovers his better form at the top of the order, giving the rest of the batting line-up the fast getaway and platform from which to build.
The World Cup winner top-scored for the Invincibles last season with 186 runs in seven innings, although that was only good enough to rank 10th in the competition.
The big-hitting right-hander has been under the spotlight this summer for his struggles with England and there is no doubt he is a man under pressure with the T20 World Cup fast approaching.
Whether he is able to free himself from the shackles for The Hundred remains open to question but if his poor run continues, there will be added pressure on the likes of Jacks and Billings, who ranked outside the top 20 for runs last season.
Losing both Tabraiz Shamsi, ranked above the likes of Rashid Khan, Adil Rashid and Adam Zampa in the T20I rankings, and Saqib Mahmood has certainly weakened their attack, and their depth options look limited, again putting added pressure on the frontline players, like Topley and Narine.
Only way is up for Spirit
The Spirit endured a torrid first attempt in the Hundred, winning just one of their eight games - a narrow six-run victory over Manchester Originals - as they finished bottom of the pile on three points - their other point coming from the washout against the Invincibles.
Obviously things did not go according to plan and there looks to be too many questions to think they can turn last season's formbook on its head and challenge for the title.
Glenn Maxwell and Kieron Pollard could be as box office as anyone on their day but the former will not be available for the whole competition, with Ben McDermott and the returning Josh Inglis expected to help fill that void.
The bowling though is a weak link, particularly with Mark Wood and Blake Cullen on the injured list, although Brad Wheal will hope to bring his T20 Blast form to this competition having finished as the leading wicket-taker for winners Hampshire.
Mason Crane does offer variation with the spinners having proved crucial last season, but it is worth noting he only took six wickets in six matches in 2021, with an economy rate of 7.20 and may not have enough to slow the opposition down.
Local bragging rights a factor
As mentioned previously, London won only one game last season and although the Lord's encounter with the Invicibles was a washout, they did manage to push their rivals close in the completed fixture at the Oval.
Eoin Morgan scored more than a quarter of his tournament runs in making 41 of his side's 146-7, with the no-longer-there Shamsi the chief tormentor having finished with 3-25.
The Invincibles were in a semblance of trouble in the run chase having been reduced to 52-4 but it was Laurie Evans - one of only two players to reach double figures - who dug his side out of a massive hole, clubbing an unbeaten 67 off just 37 balls to guide the Invincibles home to a two-wicket win.