Who are the overseas stars? Where will games be won and lost? What has changed since 2020? The Cricketer takes a deep dive into Southern Brave ahead of the first season of The Hundred
Mahela Jayawardene: One of the finest batsmen of the 21st century, the Sri Lankan moved into coaching in 2015 following his retirement. First serving as a batting consultant to England, he’s best known for leading Mumbai Indians to three IPL titles - the most recent coming in 2020.
Devon Conway: The New Zealand international, comes into the season after a stellar run of international form - including a starring role in the ICC World Test Championship for one - but that doesn’t mean at all he’s a white-ball player in full, having just made his Test debut last year. His red-ball record is impressive, with an average of 59.12 in T20 international games, and 19 half-centuries in domestic 50-over cricket. He’ll be the ideal opener for the Brave to set the tone for their innings.
Colin de Grandhomme: Replaced Andre Russell, who having been part of the original launch two years ago pulled out at the last minute due to international commitments. De Grandhomme has enjoyed a fine spell in England, winning the WTC with New Zealand, mashed a first-class record 174 not out for Hampshire and then helped them qualify for the T20 Blast quarter-finals. It wouldn't be a surprise to see that run continue.
Quinton de Kock: One of the few genuine overseas star names to have been signed up for the competition. Opener, keeper and often a leader, there is very little the South Africa and Mumbai Indians star can't do. A superb ball-striker and an acrobat behind the stumps, he is a one-man wrecking ball with a proven temperament at the top level. The highlight of what appears, at least on paper, to be one of the best.
Quinton de Kock winning mentally will be key on the south coast
James Vince: Some of the best English players in the country can call The Ageas Bowl home for a few weeks this summer, but Vince can do that all year round. A Southampton-native, the right-hander has enjoyed a stellar 2021 having enjoyed a fine Big Bash, which included smashing 95 in the final for eventual champions Sydney Sixers, and then scoring a maiden international hundred against Pakistan. This is his moment.
Wildcard: Jake Lintott. He’s the textbook definition of a “late bloomer”: he only signed his first professional deal with Birmingham Bears at the start of 2021, and played his first Vitality Blast game in 2017. The 28-year-old made his red-ball debut just 10 days before the opening match of The Hundred, as Warwickshire handed him his “yellow cap” - as his rapid rise to the top of the game continues. A left-arm spin bowler, he may not find himself in the starting XI right away, further proving the Brave’s exemplary depth.
Power-hitters: Quinton de Kock, Delray Rawlins, Ross Whiteley. These three players are at different stages in their careers, and their offerings outside of batting are vastly different between them, but they all have one thing in common: they can hit the ball cleanly. And hard. And often, to a place where the umpires have to dust down the box of match balls for another one. De Kock was the top run-scorer for Mumbai Indians in their winning IPL campaign in 2019 - including the most sixes, an honour he’ll be keen to take home in The Hundred, while Rawlins often entertains his local Caribbean crowds with his fearless striking style that sometimes leaves his innings short but very sweet.
Anchor: Vince. It’s been an up and down last few years for the 30-year-old, but he finally got his breakthrough in the most recent ODI series against Pakistan, having been part of a playing group that were all called up following an entire England squad self-isolation. In the third game, Vince delivered a century - followed by another one for Hampshire just two days later, meaning his form and confidence will be peaking at exactly when Mahela Jayawardene would have wanted it to. Vince is known for his variety of shot offerings, from the cover drive he has honed on the county circuit to a sweep over midwicket that he often entertains the T20 Blast crowds with. It's likely he will bat at three or four, an ideal position for him to not only play the flare shots but also ensure his team are keeping themselves paced efficiently.
Finisher: Colin de Grandhomme. There is absolutely no doubt about the quality that he possesses, and it will come as a surprise to many that he was drafted in as a replacement to Andre Russell, and not indeed as one of the pliers picked in the first draft. De Grandhomme has made a reputation for being a brash, unafraid striker of the ball who likes to come in at around six or seven, but with experience in all formats, he can also measure his innings when necessary. With this in mind, he’s the ideal player to bat with and marshall the tail-enders when chasing down a total if the top order are skittled.
Problem areas: The potential issue that arises here for the Brave is possibly the lack of a world-class wrist-spinner, and also the likelihood that players like Vince, Archer and Overton may find themselves called up to England duty. Archer has been easing himself back into limited-overs cricket after injuries plagued his progress at the start of 2021, something Jayawardene will be fully aware of and not looking to aggravate.
Mahela Jayawardene brings a wealth of experience with him to The Ageas Bowl
Speed merchants: Archer, Chris Jordan, Tymal Mills, Craig Overton. This is, simply put, a stunning bowling attack, and possibly the best in the competition. There is a perfect mix of raw pace, international experience and wicket-taking nous. Mills, 28, can bowl repeatedly at speeds north of 90mph - and while it's been a frustrating last few seasons for the seamer in terms of injuries, Eoin Morgan did indeed confirm that Mills was a player that could make his way into selection plans for the T20 World Cup, and after a sparkling Vitality Blast campaign with Sussex Sharks, his bowling style and aggression will make him more than just a crowd-pleaser.
As for Jordan, England fans know exactly what he can do. He is often deployed in T20 as the choice death bowler, with a clean and accurate yorker that usually restricts his opponents to dots and singles, and often getting the dismissal to boot. The question will be who takes on which role in terms of the innings’ overs, but given the combined two decades of experience shared by the four pacemen-in-chief, it can only be considered a nice problem to have.
Variation: Max Waller and Danny Briggs will also be providing pace-off options. Briggs, who made just one appearance for England in 2012, has since more than bounced back from the disappointment of not getting the key international breakthrough by playing just shy of an incredible 200 T20 matches: in which he has taken a mere 212 wickets at an economy rate of 7.21 - something he’ll be keen to replicate against the star-studded top-orders in The Hundred.
Waller, 33, has a decade of experience, becoming one of Somerset’s most reliable leg-spinners. Averaging exactly one wicket per bowling appearance, his T20 economy is an impressive 7.21, and playing a crucial role in their 2019 Royal London One-Day Cup triumph. Playing spin in short-form cricket is a double-edged sword, but one that Briggs knows all about - making him a great rotation option for the Brave.
Line and length: Craig Overton, who for all of his on-and-off relationship with the England side has remained one of Somerset’s most consistent assets in both red and white-ball cricket. Having played his first T20 game some seven years ago, he’s gone on to accrue 54 wickets as a bowling all-rounder. With the red-ball on the county circuit, he has 12 five-wicket hauls and in the last couple of years finally broke through to his national team. He’ll be a handy option for the early overs of the batting side’s innings with his full ball and inswinger that he has been known to deploy to get an early breakthrough.
Ten-ball over candidate: This could genuinely go to any member of this bowling attack, including the all-rounders. But given Archer’s variations and death bowling experience, he’s exactly who the Brave would want to deliver a killer 10-ball over to try and find a key wicket or two or to push the run rate of the opposing side back in their favour. Archer famously delivered the Super Over in the 2019 World Cup Final, and when playing for Sussex Sharks is often used in the closing stages.
England's all-time T20 wicket-taker will seek to keep the speed gun busy
Gun fielder: Jayawardene has the most catches in international red-ball cricket of all time, so he’ll be looking to inspire the wealth of fielding talent at his disposal. New signing De Grandhomme is someone to look out for here - often positioned just inside the circle, he is not afraid to leap towards the ball like an outstretched football goalkeeper, and he doesn’t put them down often either.
Who takes the gloves?: Quinton de Kock. With a wealth of experience keeping wicket for his country and MI, this will be the South African’s first foray into English domestic cricket. Vocal behind the stumps and with cat-like reflexes, he’s the most decorated wicket-keeper in the men’s competition.
Changes from 2020: The Brave have had to ring the changes since various COVID-related disruption and injuries forced Andre Russell, David Warner and Marcus Stoinis out of the side. The Australian pair were unable to travel due to the pandemic, forcing them to be replaced by de Kock and Conway: not bad replacements at all - but Colin de Grandhomme joined them in July 2021 with Guyana remaining on the UK’s “red list” - meaning he’d be subject to two-week hotel quarantine were he to arrive.
Ground: The Rose Bowl doesn’t get as much late July and August use for red-ball cricket as some of the other venues used in The Hundred, including Lord’s, Headingley and Old Trafford, but it’s typically drier pitch will make a fascinating early battle in the powerplay with just two fielders permitted outside of the circle. The world-famous English weather could see the pitch left damp at points, the Bowl often being a happy hunting ground for spinners: indeed Adil Rashid is the highest and second-highest wicket-taker there in T20s and ODIs respectively.
Sound from the ground: The BBC presenter Steph Nieuwenhuys will serve as the in-house DJ at the Ageas Bowl.The first artist to play the Ageas Bowl will be the alternative band MarthaGunn, with Baby Queen, Lauren Hibberd and Coach Party also scheduled to appear.
Fixtures: July 24 - Trent Rockets (a), July 27 - Welsh Fire (a), July 30 - Birmingham Phoenix (h), August 1 - London Spirit (a), August 5 - Manchester Originals (h), August 7 - Northern Superchargers (h), August 11 - Welsh Fire (h), August 16 - Oval Invincibles (h)
Squad: Jofra Archer, Danny Briggs, Devon Conway, Alex Davies, Liam Dawson, Quinton de Kock, George Garton, Colin de Grandhomme, Chris Jordan, Jake Lintott, Tymal Mills, Craig Overton, Delray Rawlins, James Vince, Max Waller, Ross Whiteley
Possible XI: Quinton De Kock, James Vince, Devon Conway, Delray Rawlins, Ross Whiteley, Colin de Grandhomme, George Garton, Chris Jordan, Liam Dawson, Jofra Archer, Tymal Mills
Harry Gurney's analysis: "You've got this core of Hampshire and Sussex. Briggs, Dawson, Vince, De Grandhomme are all either current or former Hants players. Then you've got Jordan, Mills, Rawlins, Garton, Archer all from Hove.
"That will be important as well. The ability for a team to gel well early on, a lot of the guys there are the nucleus of a team and play a lot of cricket together.
"I remember after the first draft everyone looking at Southern Brave and they looked like the stand-out team. Things have evolved since then but they look like they've got most bases covered.
"It is hard to differentiate between the teams. The draft system by the nature of it they're all strong. Tymal when fit is one of the best T20 bowlers in the world, we all know about CJs record from his exploits with England.
"You have your Garton's and Overton and some nice spin options. Whether Jofra plays or not it is a huge bonus but without him, there are enough guys who can put their hands up for 20 balls and dow a job.
"You've seen in in the Big Bash over the years guys being pulled out of grade cricket and suddenly they've at the IPL two years later. Hopefully, we get some fairytales over here. Guys like Jake Lintott is a good example of that. He's done well in the Blast and got a Hundred contact. These are the kinds of stories I hope we see a lot of.
"A nucleus of players who know the conditions and the home ground is going to be important for any team. It is the surroundings as much as anything, the changing rooms, it being close to your house, all that kind of stuff. It is more than just the conditions in the middle."
Delray Rawlins will get his chance on the big stage
OTHER TEAM GUIDES
Northern Superchargers - women