The last two teams to get their campaign underway in The Hundred do so on Saturday afternoon when the Trent Rockets welcome the Birmingham Phoenix to Trent Bridge in what is a repeat of the semi-final from last year.
The Phoenix won that semi-final to progress to the final which they were eventually beaten in but these look two of the best teams in the competition and so they each have the chance to lay an early marker down in the campaign.
If anything, the Trent Rockets flattered to deceive a little last season, although one of the results for that was because their batting got clogged up by Joe Root and Dawid Malan in the same side at the beginning of the campaign. To have one of those in a team is just about fair enough but they both do the same job and neither score particularly quickly from the get go which can lead to them posting under par totals. That problem will remain in place this term until England gather their Test players together.
That could be a big issue in this match because we have seen all season that Trent Bridge is a high scoring ground where scores of 200 in the 20 over format are barely par. Unless Malan or Root can come out of their shell quickly it is going to put a lot of pressure on the likes of Alex Hales and Tom Kohler-Cadmore to deliver. The good thing is Rashid Khan is in place to at least offer some assistance should the Rockets underperform with the bat.
The Birmingham Phoenix had a campaign to remember last season but it ended in ultimate disappointment when they were beaten in the final. On the face of it they don’t look as strong this season because Adam Milne, their top bowler last term, comes into this campaign off the back of an injury which ruled him out of the recent New Zealand matches and Tom Abell is out for the whole of the tournament. Liam Livingstone wasn’t in the best form in the recent England matches either.
The good thing for the Phoenix in this match is that they have oceans of batting depth which you would imagine will be useful at Trent Bridge. They are also loaded with international talent with their top five potentially all international players as well as a couple of bowlers. If Birmingham can get a strong tune out of Milne then there is every chance we could see them offering something like they did last season but if he has an off day this attack could go the distance.
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Alex Hales is the one member of the top four for the Trent Rockets who can take a match away from the opposition in no time. The fact he is playing on his home county ground should only boost his chances of getting off to a quick start.
Moeen Ali is the talisman for the Birmingham Phoenix and not just because he is the captain. He is a key member of the top order, a left-hander who always go well with that short new boundary at Trent Bridge and a canny spin bowler. If he plays well the Phoenix will be hard to stop.
The sixes have flowed in The Hundred in the previous two matches with 15 of them at The Oval on Thursday evening and then 16 of them at Old Trafford on Friday evening and I fancy we are going to see at least a dozen here at Trent Bridge which is smaller than both of those two grounds. Although the Rockets have Joe Root and Dawid Malan in their side there are still plenty of six hitters in this match so I expect the sixes to flow.
I’ve said it a million times whenever I preview a match at Trent Bridge but that New Stand has cut off half the boundary which a left-hander can reach with ease and with the likes of Colin Munro, Dawid Malan, Mathew Wade and Moeen Ali all on show here that will be enticing for all. Add in natural big six hitters such as Alex Hales, Tom Kohler-Cadmore, Will Smeed, Chris Benjamin, Liam Livingstone and others and the 11.5 sixes line doesn’t look nearly high enough.
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