Welsh Fire v Southern Brave
Tuesday 26 July 18.30
TV: Live on Sky Sports
Fire rely on Bairstow
Welsh Fire got off to the perfect start with a thrilling high-scoring success against Northern Superchargers in their opener. It perfectly encapsulated their strength and weakness.
With Jonny Bairstow up front they will reckon they're capable of anything with the bat. This is just as well as they could be expensive with the ball. They defended 173 against the Superchargers - but only just - scraping home by five runs.
Their great strength, however, could eventually be another weakness. This will be Bairstow's last game in the group section before he joins the England bubble for the India Test series.
Afghan spinner Qais Ahmed is their one bowler who will worry batsmen unless they find room for Lungi Ngidi, but they will probably prefer Jimy Neesham's all-round skills. Only three overseas are allowed.
Possible XI Bairstow, Banton (wkt), Duckett, Philipps, Neesham, Cockbain, Critchley, Qais, Plunkett, Ball, Payne
The Southern Brave have for months been favourites to win the inaugural title. They needed to play only once for that to change. Out they have gone to 6/1 at the time of writing following a disastrous show against the Trent Rockets.
On what has historically be a flat wicket in Nottingham, the Brave made a terrible mess of their innings and posted just 126. They were thumped by nine wickets.
Quinton de Kock, the South Africa skipper, has arrived to bolster their line-up. They will also hope that Jofra Archer is fit. He has played for Sussex so it was a surprise he didn't feature.
Neither player are likely to be able to do much about the nagging pre-tournament worry that was realised in game one. They're not so hot against spin. Joe Root and Samit Patel had economy rates of 0.85 and 0.9 runs per ball.
Possible XI De Kock (wkt), Conway, Vince, Davies, Whiteley, De Grandhomme, Archer, Jordan, Briggs, Dawson, Mills
A run rate of 7.9 in T20 means that Sophia Gardens is placed third-worst for runmaking in the tournament. In the last two years in T20 cricket the average runs per ball scored is 1.25. That is very low. The trend for scores in the mid-140s (which was predicted by CricViz as discussed on Cricket...Only Bettor preview shows) would suggest shorting the par runs line at that mark is smart. Do be wary, though, that if Fire bowl first they could be pricey and it's not quite as solid as if Brave get to bowl first.
Fire are 1.865/6 favourites on an early show, suggesting we could get 2.1011/10 about the Brave. The market has lost faith rapidly in the Southampton-based team.
Clearly, they are a better outfit with De Kock and Archer in the XI. Should any team with that talent be odds-against in any format? Probably not. But they have to show they can play spin better. Fire are going to unleash Qais as soon as possible, looking to exploit a weakness De Kock has against tweak. But Fire will need Matt Critchely and his leggies to be on the button.
We're not sure this is an affair where one side is a clear favourite. A choice outing seems more like it. We're happy to bet on Brave taking down what, eventually, should be revealed as the weakest bowling attack in the tournament. Bowling first they can trade 1.705/7
Brave could tinker with their batting order, revealing potential value. Alex Davies is a destructive opener who needs the most opportunity. He could bat up top alongside De Kock. That would move Devon Conway behind James Vince at No 4. Conway is good enough to adapt. Davies goes off at 4/1 with Sportsbook. De Kock is 9/4 jolly. We note the 66s about Jofra Archer, which is cut from 100/1.
Another Bairstow special is rated at 23/10 but we're enamoured with Kiwi Glenn Phillips at 7/2. You might be able to get a couple of extra points in-play.
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