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  1. Cricket

The Hundred - Cricket: Welsh Fire v Oval Invincibles preview

Welsh Fire and Oval Invincibles will be eager to get a win on the board at Sophia Gardens on Sunday, after both lost their opening matches in The Hundred.

The Fire failed to catch light on opening night as they were soundly beaten by champions Southern Brave, while the Invincibles went down in a close clash with regional rivals London Spirit at The Oval.

What:Welsh Fire v Oval Invincibles, The Hundred
Where:Sophia Gardens, Cardiff
When:14:00, Sunday 7th August 2022
How to watch:Sky Sports Cricket and Sky Sports Mix
Odds:Welsh Fire 6/4, Oval Invincibles 8/15 

Rivals keen to get off the mark

Given each team plays only eight group games in The Hundred, losing your opening two fixtures can really put you on the back foot in the race for the play-offs.

So naturally both the Fire and Invincibles will be anxious to get their campaigns up and running after defeats in their opening games of the tournament.

Neither side made the top three last term, the Fire came seventh and Invincibles fourth, and on the evidence of their opening-night hiding at the hands of Southern Brave, the hosts will do well to improve on last term's finish.

The Fire were bound to have been affected by the withdrawal of star turn Jonny Bairstow on the eve of the tournament and their batting left plenty to be desired at the Rose Bowl.

Ben Duckett - 15/4 to be top team batter in Cardiff - continued his decent form from last year's tournament with 40, but 107-7 was never going to be enough against a well-drilled Brave unit, who chased down the target with 33 balls to spare.

The Invincibles were much closer in their defeat to the Spirit, losing a high-scoring affair by just three runs. The continued poor form of England opener Jason Roy will be a slight concern but there were some promising signs from their middle-order.

Batting depth key for Invincibles

Bairstow's decision to opt out of the tournament to rest for forthcoming England international matches understandably left a gaping hole in the Fire's batting card.

There are still some talented individuals in the Fire's ranks, but batting depth is an area in which the Invincibles look to have a discernible advantage.

Oval's top four combined for only ten runs in Thursday's clash with the Spirit, but batters five to nine scored 146 runs between them from 86 deliveries.

The Invincibles' batting unit could be further strengthened on Sunday by the presence of South Africa international Rilee Rossouw, who has been in sparkling form in white-ball cricket this year and who is 3/1 to be top team batter on Sunday

Only Hampshire and Brave star James Vince scored more runs in this year's T20 Blast than Rossouw's 623 for Somerset, which included seven half centuries - one of which was an innings of 93 from just 36 balls against Derbyshire.

The 32-year-old left-hander maintained that strong form for South Africa in their recent T20 series win over England with a magnificent 96 not out from 55 balls at Sophia Gardens the highlight.

Such are the Invincibles' embarrassment of batting riches it is difficult to see who will be the unlucky player to miss out should the South African come into the side, but make no mistake, Rossouw's presence only adds to an already formidable batting unit.

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Oval bowling attack sharp too

It's not just with the bat that the Invincibles look sharp, with their predominantly Surrey-based bowling attack offering pace, trickery and guile.

The variations of the Curran brothers, Sam and Tom, will always be extremely useful in limited-overs cricket and left-arm quick Reece Topley has arguably been England's best bowler in one-day cricket this summer, taking 19 wickets in ODIs and T20Is in 2022.

Throw in the trickery of West Indian spinner Sunil Narine - 4/1 to be top team bowler - and it's easy to see why the Invincibles were one of the more fancied franchises before a ball was bowled in anger.

Prediction

A running theme of the Fire's inaugural Hundred campaign was their reliance on Duckett and their opening night defeat at the Brave hinted that that could be the case again, especially after Bairstow decided to rest up.

Duckett hit 65 when the Fire took on the Invincibles last year and they will likely need more of the same if they are to upset the odds on Sunday.

The Invincibles cannot quite live up to their name given they have already been beaten in this year's competition, but there is so much talent in their squad that the play-offs look a highly attainable target in 2022.

They should take all the beating in Cardiff and Rossouw may be the man who does the most damage with the bat as he returns to the Welsh capital a week or so after dispatching England's bowlers to all parts of Sophia Gardens.

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