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  1. Cricket

The Hundred - Cricket: Preview

The second season of The Hundred gets underway on Wednesday with Southampton-based Southern Brave hoping to successfully defend the crown they won last August.

The same eight franchises who contested the inaugural season of The Hundred are back for the 2022 campaign with their sights set on the final at Lord's on September.

What

The Hundred

Where

England and Wales

When

3rd August to 3rd September 2022

How to watch

Sky Sports

OddsSouthern Brave 3/1, Trent Rockets 11/2, Birmingham Phoenix 6/1, Manchester Originals 6/1, Oval Invicibles 6/1

Southern Brave were the victors 12 months ago, finishing second in the round-robin section before prevailing in the playoffs, and James Vince's side are 3/1 to retain the trophy.

The women's Hundred will start a week later with so many of the game's stars on duty over the next few days at the Commonwealth Games.

How it works

It's an identical format to last year, which was deemed a success by organisers with packed houses enjoying the Sky TV-backed event.

That the tournament is held to coincide with the school's summer holidays tells you all about the target audience, so expect plenty of noise, lights, music and fireworks with a limited-overs cricket match thrown in for good measure.

There are 32 group-stage games involving the eight franchises, headed by favourites Southern Brave. The Trent Rockets are expected to compete for the overall title, Birmingham Phoenix, Manchester Originals and Oval Invincibles all look dangerous, while Cardiff-based Welsh Fire, London Spirit and Northern Superchargers are also going for glory.

It's 100 balls per innings with a 25-ball powerplay, the fielding side changes ends after 10 balls and bowlers operate in either five or 10-ball bursts but cannot bowl more than 20 balls in an innings.

The winner of the eight-team round-robin group goes straight to the final on 3rd September at Lord's where they will play the winner of the eliminator between the teams finishing second and third in the table.

Can the Phoenix rise to the top again?

Birmingham Phoenix topped the group stage last season and were responsible for two of the three highest scores of the tournament.

They boasted the leading run scorer - England's explosive all-rounder Liam Livingstone - and Moeen Ali, who was fourth in that list. Both are back at Edgbaston, where they will join international superstars of the calibre of Matthew Wade and Imran Tahir.

Being top of the table guarantees a place in the final but doesn't guarantee victory as the Phoenix discovered last year, losing the Lord's showpiece by 32 runs to the Southern Brave.

South African Quinton de Kock is the star turn for the Southampton-based Brave but it's their pace attack which looks seriously impressive, even without crocked England seamer Jofra Archer.

James Vince is fortunate to be able to call upon Tymal Mills, Chris Jordan, George Garton and Craig Overton, while Australian all-rounder Marcus Stoinis will be looking to excel in the first couple of weeks.

Trent Rockets were the other side to reach the playoffs where their top order - minus Joe Root - dissolved against the Brave.

Former England skipper Root is still there, so too the huge-hitting Alex Hales and Dawid Malan, while Afghanistan's world-class spinner Rashid Khan remains their real wild card.

Spirit hoping for capital gains

The capital is represented by London Spirit, based at Lord's, and Oval Invincibles.

The Invincibles didn't quite live up to their name in 2021, though they were just one game away from making the playoffs. They had to beat Southern Brave in their final game to finish third, but a six-wicket defeat saw them finish in fourth.

The Surrey side is one packed with explosive England one-day players, among them Alex Roy, both Curran brothers, Tom and Sam, left-arm pace-man Reece Topley and keeper-batsman Sam Billings.

As for the Spirit, last year's inaugural season was a disappointment pretty much from the word go.

The only point they collected from their opening five games was courtesy of a no-result and by the time they beat Manchester Originals in round six - thanks in no small part to Scottish seamer Harvey Wheal's fantastic four for 17 - their race was run. They finished bottom on a modest three points.

Which at least means the only way is (or should be) up in 2022 as Eoin Morgan builds his side around the nucleus of the Hampshire team who just won the T20 Blast. Five of the Hampshire bowling attack from T20 Finals day, including Aussie Nathan Ellis, are in the Spirit ranks.

They also had first pick in the draft and were more than happy to sign up West Indies all-rounder Kieran Pollard.

Yorkshire grit to spark Welsh Fire

Leg-spinner Adam Zampa was landed by the Welsh Fire in the second round of the draft to add a bit of mystery to their bowling attack, where the franchise will hope to improve on three wins and a seventh-place finish.

Ben Stokes' Northern Superchargers also have leg spin in their line-up in the shape of the Durham man's England colleague Adil Rashid, while Pakistan left-arm paceman Wahib Riaz, one of the stars of the 2015 World Cup and a real handful, is a fascinating addition.

Manchester Originals complete the field with Jos Buttler hoping for some head-turning, match-winning performances from their first-round draft pick, West Indies all-rounder Andre Russell.

The stage is set for a month of the shortest of short-format cricket, and blink-and-you'll-miss-it fireworks from some of the world's best cricketers.

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