Birmingham Phoenix v Southern Brave
Saturday 21 August 18.30
TV: live on Sky Sports, BBC2
Birmingham Phoenix finished top of the group and progressed straight to the Lord's final. After back-to-back defeats early on (the last of those against Brave), they have not looked back and are on a five-game winning sequence.
Losing Moeen Ali for their final two group games briefly jeopardised their hopes of finishing top but stand-in captain Liam Livingstone stepped up and claimed the match gong in wins over the Originals and Ropckets.
Moeen returns for the showpiece but Finn Allen, the Kiwi hitter who has been a key player, is away with New Zealand. With Tom Abell finally fit, expect Miles Hammond to open again with Will Smeed, who has been a sensation in the opening berth. Danield Bedingham, drafted in as replacement for Allen, is a possible starter but it would be a big surprise.
With the ball Adam Milne, Benny Howell and Imran Tahir have been superb. Brave may look to get after Dillon Pennington and Pat Brown.
Probable XI Smeed, Hammond, Livingstone, Moeen, Abell, Benjamin, Howell, Milne, Brown, Pennington, Tahir
Brave also suffered back-to-back losses but they came in their first two games so it's an impressive six straight wins. They destroyed Trent Rockets in the semi-final, effectively ending the contest by the very first powerplay.
They have defied tournament trends in terms of favouring pace over spin. George Garton, Tymal Mills and Chris Jordan have all been superb. Garton took 3 for 18 against Rockets. The returning Craig Overton, another pacer, meant they left out Danny Briggs, a spinner with a runs per ball rate of 1.36.
Singapore hitter Tim David, well known to Big Bash followers, was signed just before the semi. He came straight into the XI off the back of brilliant batting performances for Surrey in the domestic 50-over. He should bat at No 6.
Possible XI De Kock, Stirling, Vince, Davies, Whiteley, David, C Overton, Garton, Jordan, Mills, Lintott
Lord's has hosted three matches, returning first-innings scores of 155-145-123. That middle score was by Brave in their win over London Spirit. The surface has looked slow and been helpful to spinners.
However, with Brave likely to only pick one spinner we need to be smart of the first-innings runs par line. Phoenix could well bust a mid-140s mark with little variation in the Brave ranks perhaps allowing Smeed, Livingstone and Moeen to hit through the line with abandon.
But if Brave bat first we might go under. Tahir and Howell, with economy rates of 1.3 and 1.1 respectively hold the key. Not to mention the meanest bowler in the tournament, Adam Milne, at an incredible 1.05.
This view would be backed up by the runs per ball rates below. It shows that Phoenix have a significant edge.
Runs per ball for/against
What could scupper best-laid plans is the weather. The forecast for HQ is not too bad but there is a 20% chance of rain from 19.00 for the duration so don't be surprised if there are interruptions.
Win the toss, win the game
Birmingham are marginal 1.9720/21 favourites with Brave 2.001/1. The reality is that this is a choice affair. It could be argued that Phoenix should be shorter given the data above but pre-toss the market is hardly outrageously wrong.
The flip is crucial. There's more than 62% bias for the chaser in the tournament and Brave could be forgiven for feeling more nervous than Phoenix at the flip. Five of Brave's wins have come chasing. On the two occasions they have batted first they squeezed home against a poor London Spirit side by four runs and were thrashed by Rockets.
Backing the chaser blind may well be a strategy because Phoenix have also benefited from batting first. In the head-to-head, Brave chased 152 comfortably. And it would have been even easier had Colin de Grandhomme, no longer available, not gone for 2.29 runs per ball.
The game could well come down to the coin toss, then, and a match-up. Jake Lintott, Brave's only spinner, has to keep Livingstone and Moeen quiet. He cost just 0.86rpb in the previous meeting.
Quinton de Kock has been boosted to 12/5 for top Brave bat. Note that he has an issue against Tahir - 18 runs off 24 balls and two outs in T20. James Vince, who topped in the group stage against Phoenix, is 11/4 and 8/1 for man of the match.
We think there's a rick on top Phoenix bat. Hammond is 11/2 and there's a good chance he opens having batted there at the start of the tournament. He took a liking to Brave's bowlers, too. Livingstone is boosted to 3/1 and is 6/1 for the match gong. Moeen is 16/5 and 7/1 respectively.
We note prices on man of the match of 12/1 Tahir and the pivotal Lintott at 16s.
Already advised: (0.5pts) Back Phoenix to win title 8.07/1
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