Ed Hawkins reckons opening batters could make hay before rain in The Hundred clash from Edgbaston on Monday
"With rain likely to reduce the number of balls bowled, opening batsmen will have a huge advantage for top bat"
Birmingham Phoenix v Welsh Fire
Monday 9 August 18.30
TV: live on Sky Sports
Phoenix could be smarter
Phoenix have won two on the spin and the quality of opposition they beat suggests they are a force to be reckoned with. They followed up success over the leaders, Trent Rockets, by beating Oval Invincibles. Moeen Ali and co will be expectant of a third-successive win.
There is a note of caution, however. Deep into the tournament they remain stubborn on selection. Answers on a post card as to how Tom Helm keeps getting picked. Helm appears twice in the top 15 for most runs conceded in an innings in the tournament and has a runs per ball rate of 2.09. With four wickets he's hardly in the side for penetration.
Dillon Pennington would be an interesting replacement - he could hardly be worse - but Phoenix could even leave out Helm and play an extra batter because they still boast six bowling options.
Probable XI Allen, Smeed, Livingstone, Moeen, Hammond, Benjamin, Howell, Milne, Tahir, Helm, Brown
Fire hit by withdrawals
Welsh Fire have lost three matches on the spin, coinciding with Jonny Bairstow's departure. It would be wrong to reckon, though, that it is weak batting which is costing them.
Their bowling plans are in disarray after a series of withdrawals. Before a ball was bowled in the tournament they were marked down as having one of the weakest attacks. But with Jake Ball, Liam Plunkett and Lungi Ngidi all out they are down to the bare bones. Luke Fletcher and Matt Milnes have come in to a stretched line-up which includes David Payne, who is almost as bad as Helm for economy.
At least they have batting power. Tom Banton, Ben Duckett and Glenn Philipps, who finally got a score in defeat by the Rockets last time, will cause plenty of problems. Ian Cockbain has replaced Josh Cobb as opener.
Possible XI Banton, Cockbain, Duckett, Philipps, Du Plooy, White, Neesham, Qais, Fletcher, Milnes, Payne
Edgbaston has been terrific for batting. The first-innings scores posted read: 172-144-144. When you consider the tournament average is at 137 those numbers suggest it is better than most venues. With Phoenix so dangerous with the willow - they took a [particularly liking to the Invincibles line-up - this could be the time to take a risk on a big number up first. We know that the Fire attack is prone to be expensive. But they key question is: what is the weather doing? A lot unfortunately. From 19.00 to 21.00 there is at least a 50% chance of rain. That probably washes away our hopes of taking 3.505/2 about Phoenix getting 160 or more.
The Hundred data
Batting 1st average score 137
RBP average 1.40
RBP average batting 2nd 1.46
145 or more 8/18
Powerplay average 33.7
Powerplay ave batting 1st 31.2
Powerplay average batting 2nd 36.2
Favourite wins 12/19
Chaser wins 12/19
Fire might shorten in chase
Phoenix are 1.738/11 with Fire 2.23. That's prohibitively short about the home team and we were hoping that we might get a chance at 1.804/5. The problem is the market is well aware of Fire's weakness.
We wouldn't want to be on Phoenix without the toss bias in their favour. As you can see from the data above there is now a clear trend for the chaser taking the points and scoring at faster rates. That might open up a chance on Fire if they bat second but it's best to wait in-play. Fire could well come up to the 2.608/5 mark with a stiff target to go after.
The time to get with them for a trade would be the powerplay and for once we'll use that Phoenix stubbornness against them. Get involved with Helm spraying it around..
With rain likely to reduce the number of balls bowled, opening batsmen will have a huge advantage for top bat. For Phoenix, Will Smeed and Finn Allen will go shot for shot. Sportsbook rate them at 7/2 and 11/4 respectively. A smart ploy may be to play both on the man of the match market. Smeed is 16s and Allen 9s.
For Fire, Banton and Cockbain should be paired again. Banton has been boosted to 13/5 and Cockbain is 7/2. They are 10s and 14s respectively on the match gong market. Both prices only serve to highlight what value the hard-hitting Smeed is.
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