The Welsh Fire delivered one of the worst campaigns in franchise history a year ago when they failed to register a single win and they will be looking to be a lot more competitive this time around and show that they can be a force in this competition. They have changed coach and captain and ripped their squad up and started again and it will be interesting to see what impact that has down in Cardiff.
Last Season: 8th
Captain: Tom Abell
Key Players: Jonny Bairstow & Shaheen Shah Afridi
Best Odds: 8/1 General
August 2: Manchester Originals (h)
August 4: Southern Brave (a)
August 6: Oval Invincibles (a)
August 10: Birmingham Phoenix (a)
August 12: Southern Brave (h)
August 14: Trent Rockets (h)
August 20: London Spirit (h)
August 22: Northern Superchargers (a)
Jonny Bairstow, Tom Abell, David Willey, Shaheen Afridi, Joe Clarke, Glenn Phillips, Ben Green, Haris Rauf, David Payne, Roelof van der Merwe, Jake Ball, Stephen Eskinazi, Dan Douthwaite, George Scrimshaw, Luke Wells, Chris Cooke
The Welsh Fire were unfortunate that Jonny Bairstow withdrew from the competition on the eve of the tournament a year ago but even then they would have expected to offer a lot more than they ended up doing. Mike Hussey has come in as coach and he has installed Somerset four-day captain Tom Abell as the skipper of this side. What I like about the Fire is they spent their big money on top class bowlers which could be crucial.
The likes of Shaheen Shah Afridi, Haris Rauf and David Willey have all arrived in Cardiff while the batting has been pepped up by the inclusions of Steve Eskinazi and the home man Chris Cooke. That batting was going to have natural improvement in it anyway with Jonny Bairstow expected to be available for much more of the tournament, unless he decides on a late u-turn once again. A possible lack of mystery spin is a concern but from where they were a year ago the Fire look much more competitive.
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I have already nailed my colours to the Jake Ball mast when it comes to the tournament top bowler market so I have him effectively covered in the top Welsh Fire bowler standings on the assumption that he both starts and that the Pakistani pair of Shaheen Shah Afridi and Haris Rauf depart at some point in the competition. There is no official confirmation of that but it wouldn’t make much sense if they are not in the Pakistan squad for the Asia Cup.
It is the batting that I’ll look at for a bet with the Welsh Fire and while Jonny Bairstow is the favourite, I do wonder if he will be allowed to play the entire competition having just played five Test matches in six weeks and with England having a busy white ball schedule after this event. If he doesn’t it opens it up to the field. You have to play straight well at Cardiff and you need to play spin well too so Glenn Phillips catches my eye at 4/1. He was brilliant for Gloucestershire in the T20 Blast last season and will be wanting a good tournament here to make sure he is in the New Zealand side for their white ball tour of England at the end of August. He might well bat in the middle order but he’s a candidate to go up and open if Bairstow doesn’t play so that 4/1 appeals to me.
Back G.Phillips Top Welsh Fire Batter for a 1/10 stake at 5.00 with Coral