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The Hundred - Cricket: Southern Brave v Welsh Fire preview

Southern Brave came out on top last summer as they became the first winners of The Hundred men's competition and they get the new season under way at home to Welsh Fire on Wednesday.

Based at Southampton's Ageas Bowl, the Brave have plenty of reasons to believe that they can mount a successful defence of their title, not least of which is that James Vince recently led Hampshire Hawks to T20 Blast glory.

What:The Hundred - Southern Brave v Welsh Fire
Where:The Ageas Bowl, Southampton
When:19:00, Wednesday 3rd August 2022
How to watch:Sky Sports Cricket, Main Event and Mix, BBC2 and BBC iPlayer 
Odds:Southern Brave 4/6, Welsh Fire 6/5

Home advantage has proved fruitful

In winning the first Hundred title last summer, the Brave benefitted hugely from winning all four of their home group games at the Ageas Bowl.

Oval Invincibles and Birmingham Phoenix emulated the efforts of the Brave, with the overall record in the competition reading almost a 70 per cent record of home wins.

And the Brave made a success on home turf in a slightly unconventional manner, not outhitting their opponents, but proving to have the most economical bowlers on a ground which was the hardest to take wickets on.

Spinners dominate the 10-ball field

With captains having the option of leaving bowlers on for a 10-ball stint, that proved to be an area where spinners came to the fore.

69 per cent of all 10-ball spells were delivered by slow bowlers and the Brave's Jake Lintott was the most used in that area, with the left-arm wrist spinner ending the campaign with 11 wickets - the best tally for the champions.

Left-arm quick George Garton was the only Brave ace to reach double figures, although it is worth remembering that 12 was the best tally of any bowler in the tournament.

The Fire struggled to make a big impact with the ball and will hope the additions of Aussie leg-spinner Adam Zampa, Afghan leftie Noor Ahmed and Pakistan paceman Naseem Shah can help them improve.

Brave have strengthened their batting

Having not been the strongest batting line-up last season despite being crowned champions, the Brave have added New Zealand hitter Finn Allen to their ranks, while they will also hope for a much bigger impact from Tim David, who only played twice in The Hundred in the summer of 2021.

Allen scored at 179.24 for Yorkshire in the recent T20 Blast, meanwhile, David smacked 405 runs at a strike-rate of 174.56 for Lancashire Lightning.

Both right-handers are a huge danger for any bowling attack, with David 5/1 to be top team batter on Wednesday, while skipper Vince - who was the leading runscorer in the Blast - is priced at 11/4.

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Fire can cope with repeat Bairstow absence

The Fire also have a much-improved batting line-up at their disposal, although they will again only have limited chances, if any, to call upon England's in-form ace Jonny Bairstow, who only played two games in the competition last year.

Bairstow, who passed 50 in both of his Hundred innings, has withdrawn from The Hundred as a way of managing his workload, choosing to rest up after a busy summer before the three-Test series against South Africa starts on 17th August.

The Fire will hope others step up and provide Ben Duckett, their leading runscorer with 232 last year, with more support, with Joe Clarke, David Miller and Ollie Pope having been recruited to try and make them a more complete unit.

Left-hander Duckett made 53 when the Fire beat the Brave by 18 runs at Cardiff last season, and he is priced at 3/1 to be top team batter on Wednesday evening.

Brave seemingly invincible on home turf

Having been downed in South Wales, the Brave exacted revenge later on in the campaign in Southampton as they swept to an eight-wicket victory, reaching 147-2 with 13 balls remaining.

Both Vince and Quinton de Kock made half-centuries in a very comfortable win and given they are back at the Ageas Bowl, there seems to be little reason to believe that Wednesday's match will end in anything other than a home victory.

Whether they can go all the way again is another matter, but they remain much fancied at 10/3 in the overall market, with the Fire out at 15/2 and last season's runners-up Birmingham Phoenix 9/2.

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