The opening set of matches in The Hundred come to a close on Thursday evening when the two teams yet to get their campaign underway do so when the Northern Superchargers play host to the Birmingham Phoenix at Headingley.
The Phoenix have been the better side in the first two seasons of this competition but both sides have strengthened in the draft since then and it will be interesting to see how comes out on top in this one.
Where to watch
You have three channels to watch this match on as it will be shown on the Sky Sports Main Event, Sky Cricket and Sky Mix channels with the build-up beginning at 6pm ahead of the 6.30pm start.
In the opening two seasons of The Hundred, the Northern Superchargers have finished fifth and sixth so they will be determined for this to be their best campaign so far. In the first season they won three matches and last term they added another win to that tally but still haven’t really threatened to reach the finals. That will be a minimum requirement this time around. Even if they don’t quite make it they have to be in the mix.
To assist them with that quest, the Superchargers have recruited some real power and quality with the bat with the likes of Tom Banton and Ollie Robinson arriving to bolster the resources. One of the reasons why the Northern Superchargers have been inconsistent in this competition to date is that Headingley has become a batting paradise so the success of the Yorkshire based franchise could depend on how their bowlers go on good batting wickets.
The Birmingham Phoenix topped the table in the opening season of the competition but went down to the Southern Brave in the final. Last year they missed out on the finals by one spot when injuries towards the end of the campaign caught up with them so they will be fully motivated to improve on that effort with a squad which at the beginning of the competition looks in good order. On paper, the Phoenix are one of the standout sides in the tournament.
They were already a very good batting unit but I think it is fair to say that they have upgraded in that department with the arrival of Ben Duckett, while Jamie Smith wasn’t the worst pickup either to be fair. The big thing for the Phoenix is that their overseas seamers are fit and ready to fire as that is what hurt them towards the back end of last season. If there is a question mark over the Phoenix it comes in their spin options but that might not be as much of an issue here, particularly with the weather of the last few days.
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Harry Brook is the superstar player for the Northern Superchargers and as long as he is available after England duty then he will be looked upon as the danger man for the home side in this opening game for them.
Will Smeed comes into The Hundred off the back of some brutal form in the Vitality Blast where his runs went some way to Somerset winning the title. Birmingham Phoenix will be eager for their opener to continue his good form.
We have to dodge a few showers over the course of Thursday in this part of the world although during the match time it is fairly clear if all the radars are correct. That makes betting on this one a little awkward as does the fact that both teams have England Test players in their ranks and we don’t know for certain whether they have been made available. With that in mind, I’ll leave the match betting alone, although all things being equal I think there is just a touch more quality throughout the Birmingham Phoenix side.
There is a lot of batting power in these two sides and while there is quality with the ball, the likes of Reece Topley, Adil Rashid, Kane Richardson and Brydon Carse all missed bits of the T20 Blast with injury so they might need a run out to get up to speed. On what is usually a good batting track with boundaries which seem to get smaller season on season I’m expecting the boundaries to flow in potentially the highest scoring game of the competition so far. The line is 35.5 which feels well within reach.
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