Oval Invincibles v London Spirit
Thursday 4 August, 18:30
TV: live on Sky Sports
Invincibles are fancied to improve on their play-off position this term. They will hope that Jason Roy discovers his mojo. He needs to with Rilee Rossouw expected to miss out due to South Africa duty. They are always likely to have to wait for Mohammad Hasnai's availability. Still, the below XI looks like they should cope just fine.
Possible XI: Roy, Jacks, S Curran, Billings, Cartwright, Narine, Cox, T Curran, Briggs, Topley, Brown
The Spirit finished bottom last season, winning just once. In an effort to improve they have signed Glenn Maxwell, probably capable of winning two on his own. They could well be at 'full-strength' straight away although we're not sure how long Eoin Morgan gets in the XI.
Possible XI: Crawley, Rossington, Maxwell, Pollard, Thompson, Morgan, Dawson, Meredith, Wood, Wheal, Crane
The five games last season produced scores of: 96-2/146-2/125-1/121-2/145-1. That's a bit of a mixed bag. Delving into historic T20 stats (last five years), a score of about 130 would be par on that data. Even adding in the faster rate in the format, going under 142.5 isn't the worst bet in the world. https://www.betfair.com/exchange/plus/cricket/market/1.201558582
How to play
Invincibles are 1.784/5 with Spirit 2.186/5. The Brains Trust of Morgan, Kieron Pollard and coach Trevor Bayliss are having an impact on the odds potentially. It is true that they are probably three of the finest white-ball minds in the world but it's a surprise that Invincibles are not shorter. They won this fixture last season by two wickets chasing 146. The 1.784/5 could look very big indeed in a few weeks.
Sam Curran is 7/1 for top Invincibles bat with Sportsbook. It's a widely-held opinion that he could bat at No 3 with no Rossouw. Roy has been boosted to 11/4. For Spirit, Jordan Thompson is of interest in a potentially fluid batting order. He is 25/1.
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Southern Brave v Welsh Fire/a>
Wednesday 3 August, 19:00
TV: live on BT Sport
Brave are the champs. But in what is likely to be something of a theme as the tournament begins, they are not at full-strength. There is no Quinton de Kock, for example. Tymal Mills is also an injury doubt. Kiwi all-rounder James Fuller is supposed to be filling in for De Kock although Finn Allen is also named in their squad. Rehan Ahmed, the spin wunderkind, could make a debut.
Possible Brave XI: Allen, Stoinis, Vince, Davies, David, Whiteley, Garton, Jordan, C Overton, Lintott, Ahmed
Fire were dealt a blow with the news that Jonny Bairstow has decided to opt out. Already without David Miller their rebuilt batting line-up has crumbled before a ball has been bowled. They are also without Pakistan fast-bowler Naseem Shah.
Given that they were eighth and sixth on batting and bowling economy last term, improvement is unlikely. Leus du Plooy is an eyecatching pick in the middle-order finishing role instead of Miller.
Possible XI: Banton, Clarke, Duckett, Hain, du Plooy, Higgins, Payne, Critchely, Ball, Zampa
In the four games at the Rose Bowl last season there was a first-innings score in each bracket from 130-150. The surface has the lowest run rate in T20 of all tournament venues since 2019. Sportsbook go 11/10 that both teams score 140 and that looks like one to swerve. We'd like to go under that line for sure on the runs par line. Bet the market here.
How to play
Brave lost their opening two games last term. Given their limited resources here (Mills is key so check the teams pre-toss), they could well rate a decent lay at 1.645/8. Fire, of course, have their issues but they do have firepower up front with the bat. If they get first use they can trade shorter than 2.526/4. Bet the match odds here.
Joe Clarke could replace Bairstow as opener for Fire so 7/2 is chunky. Du Plooy is one to watch at 15/2 although he could be available at bigger in-play. He is capable of fearsome hitting.
For Brave, 3/1 on Kiwi smasher Allen is big considering his phenomenal strike rate. He has to down skip James Vince who is 11/. Tim David is 5s. Bet the Sportsbook markets here.