The second set of matches in The Hundred begins on Friday night when the tournament heads to the Ageas Bowl for the first time this season when the inaugural champions Southern Brave host their rivals Welsh Fire.
These two have both played one match this season with different outcomes. The Brave were beaten in their first game while the Fire came out on top in their opener and have the chance to scoot clear at the top of the table here.
Where to watch
The match will be shown live and in full on the Sky Sports Main Event, Sky Cricket and Sky Sports Mix channels with the build-up beginning at 6pm and the match beginning at 6.30pm.
The Southern Brave won the first season of The Hundred but they have struggled to live up to that expectation since then. They only won two matches last term and have already lost their opener in this campaign which means they have won just two of their last nine in The Hundred. That is not good for a team with the sort of personnel that they have had since this competition began and a real improvement is needed.
What makes things worse is that they were in a winning position at halfway in their first game at the Trent Rockets on Tuesday night. They had restricted the new champions to a perfectly chasable score but baulked at the finish line and it just didn’t look good how they faded when the pressure arrived on their shoulders. Their batting unit didn’t look as strong on paper as it has and I still have all sorts of concerns over their bowlers and their ability to back up game after game.
The Welsh Fire had a season to completely forget last term and there were signs in their opening match that they have done exactly that. They came out looking a completely different side, not just in terms of personnel, where understandably a significant turnover of players has happened between last year and this, but also in terms of approach with aggression with the bat followed up by quality plans executed perfectly with the ball.
The question mark is the fact that the first game against the Manchester Originals was just 40 balls and whether they can do it for 100 balls and maintain that intensity. If they can then the evidence of that opening game suggests that they will be a force in this tournament, certainly while their Pakistan seam pair are available. There is probably more to come from the Welsh Fire too if and when Jonny Bairstow is allowed to play.
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Chris Jordan pulled the Trent Rockets back with the ball and almost got the Southern Brave over the line with the bat in the opening game but couldn’t quite finish the job off. You sense he will be a big player should the home side win this.
Shaheen Shah Afridi lit the competition up from his first ball in the Welsh Fire win over the Manchester Originals. His first set of five balls set the tone for this new look side and if he can rip out the Kiwis in the Brave top order he’ll have his team setup for a second win.
I had my concerns over the Southern Brave heading into the competition and they didn’t really go away after that opening game. Generally my doubts came in their bowling unit and the fitness it might or might not have but when you look at their batting order they were at least one batter light if not two and you just wonder if the inaugural champions are as good as they are made out to be. They certainly look vulnerable if one of their top four doesn’t score big and I still maintain my concerns over their bowlers backing up game after game.
Welsh Fire looked very good in their opening game and unlike the Southern Brave didn’t have an obvious weakness. They batted with good depth with Roelof van der Merwe slotted to come in at eight and while the shortened game meant that they only had to use four bowlers, they still had van der Merwe, Ben Green, Glenn Phillips and Luke Wells who are all useful with the ball to call upon. There will be a time when Jonny Bairstow comes into this team as well so there is a lot to like about the Fire. If Afridi can shine and a couple of batters come off the 5/4 on the Fire could look big quite quickly.
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