The new cricketing creation The Hundred kicked off in fine style on Thursday evening and it continues on Friday when the Birmingham Phoenix and London Spirit show off their talents at a baking hot Edgbaston.
These two teams are stacked with talent and will be looking to get off to a fast start, particularly the Phoenix for whom this is a home match and you get the impression that teams might have to take advantage of games on their own patch.
The Birmingham Phoenix have one of the most exciting squads in the competition, especially in the batting department where they look like they have an avalanche of riches. It will be interesting to see just how many of them they put into the side because they have two perfectly acceptable bowling options among those batsmen in Moeen Ali and Liam Livingstone. We saw on Thursday that batting depth can be all important in this new format.
They don’t lack for bowling talent either though with arguably the pick of the spin contingent in the tournament and a couple of clever seamers who should go very well in this format if they are utilised at the right times in the innings. The Phoenix tick a lot of boxes and should be right in the deep end of this competition. The quality spinners that they have could come into their own on these double header days of action.
On the face of it, the London Spirit don’t look as strong so they are going to have to use their name in a literal term and show the spirit that they have at their disposal. What they do have is some very clever cricketing brains in their ranks and if they can work out something different that they can use to their advantage then they can still be competitive, but you sense they are going to have to find something if they are to come out on top here.
The Spirit are stacked with bowlers so if they can get stuck into teams early in the innings and put some scoreboard pressure on them that might be their best chance. There is no getting away from the fact that the amount of withdrawals they have suffered from the batting ranks has left them a little exposed. That might mean that they are unable to go on the attack quite as early as some sides, although that wouldn’t be in keeping with the way Eoin Morgan likes his teams to play.
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Liam Livingstone arrives in this tournament with his stock never higher than it is right now. His form probably hasn’t been much better than it is now either. He has the ability to take any game away from any opponent with the bat and he can put the brakes on teams with the ball too.
Josh Inglis was the leading scorer in the Vitality Blast group stage and you sense he’ll need to catch fire in this match if the London Spirit are to get off to a winning start. The fact he can keep wicket and score big does at least allow the Spirit to balance their side how they want to.
I like the Birmingham Phoenix in this match. I just think they have all bases covered. They can ignite their batting right from the start whoever they open the batting with and there is no reason why they need to stop at any point with someone like Benny Howell potentially batting down at seven or eight. London Spirit don’t really have that luxury as they will be relying on all-rounders from a fair way out if they lose early wickets.
I like the balance of the Phoenix bowling attack too. They have good quality seamers and some really good spin options and the latter could be crucial on a baking hot day in Birmingham. London do have Mason Crane but they’ll be relying mostly on seamers throughout the innings and while they are explosive enough to get wickets, they look like they could be expensive as well. I’m always reluctant to take on the cricket brains of Shane Warne and Eoin Morgan but Birmingham look too strong here.
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