SAM MORSHEAD takes a look at the strengths and weaknesses of the Brave squad ahead of the new campaign
Coach: Charlotte Edwards
The England legend has made an excellent transition into coaching. Her Southern Vipers outfit are the most impressive in the new women's domestic structure, and her successes have led to a head coach gig with Sydney Sixers in the WBBL. Will no doubt be heavily linked to the soon-to-be-vacant England positio, with Lisa Keightley on her way in September, though it may be a little too soon for Edwards to want the role.
Captain: Anya Shrubsole
The 2017 World Cup-winning star has retired from international duty but remains an important figure in the English game. Highly thought of as a coach, Shrubsole's arrival has gone down very well in the Southern Vipers dressing room in 2022. Still bowls a mean, hooping inswinger, but her calm presence and vast knowledge of the game is just as valuable.
Tahlia McGrath: The Australia allrounder has had a remarkable 12 months. She made 338 runs at 42 in Adelaide Strikers' WBBL campaign in late 2021, and burst onto the international scene with a run of 42 not out, 44 not out and 91 not out in her first three innings for her country in T20Is. A career strike rate of 153 in T20Is goes to show her potential with the bat. Throw into the mix the fact McGrath is also a nagging seamer, disciplined with her line and length, and there is one very fine cricketer Southern Brave have on their hands.
Smriti Mandhana: The India opener was a part of the Brave squad in 2021, where she was paired with Danni Wyatt at the top of the order. Mandhana is an elegant strokemaker, a fine fielder, and vastly experienced in the shortest form - with 92 T20I caps to her name. She had a mixed first season in The Hundred, with the vast majority of her 167 runs coming across two of her seven innings.
Tahlia McGrath is an excellent addition to the Southern Brave squad [Getty Images]
Amanda-Jade Wellington: The standout surprise package of 2021, Wellington returned 14 wickets for Brave last year and an economy rate of 92 - the fifth best among all bowlers to have bowled more than 50 balls in the competition. That is no mean feat, especially considering she sent down more deliveries than anyone bar Tash Farrant at Oval Invincibles. It would be quite impressive for Wellington to deliver the goods in quite the same fashion in 2022; if she does, Brave will be well on their way to a second final in a row.
Molly Strano: It is testament to the strength in depth in the Australian national setup that Strano has only played seven times for her country. Strano is a useful off-spinner, who offers both control of an innings (she has been regularly used in the powerplay) and the ability to take wickets (she was the first to 100 in the WBBL). Brave's decision to employ two overseas spinners speaks to their home comforts at the Ageas Bowl - where they were unbeaten in 2021. Whether they will use both Wellington and Strano, by extension having to leave out batting power in McGrath or Mandhana, is the main conundrum facing management.
Sophia Dunkley: Among the most exciting talents to break through the English development system in recent years, Dunkley is a classy top-order batter who can switch gears quickly and take apart the best attacks. Dunkley's 2021 Hundred record - only two other batters scored more runs, while her strike rate topped 141 - speaks to her quality. Now established as a must-pick for England, she will be the hinge in the middle-order around which this Brave side operates.
Danni Wyatt: Wyatt made 208 runs in The Hundred last year but still seemed never to hit full throttle. At her best, a destructive batter who will take down pace for fun, she has found going a little harder in the shortest format in 2022. For England, her best knock of the year came in her first innings - against Australia at Adelaide - but since that 70 she has not managed more than 39 in nine innings, and her Commonwealth Games campaign was modest. It would be a mistake to write her off.
McGrath's career strike rate speaks to her devastating potential. Don't be surprised to see the Aussie employed at No.4 to take down the middle overs and death, taking on the role which was occupied by Stafanie Taylor in 2021.
At the top of the innings, Wyatt has all the tools to get Brave off to a flyer - and when she gets into her stride it is quite a sight (think the 100 off 57 balls against Australia in Canberra in 2017, or the 124 off 64 against India the following year).
Dunkley will be at the heart of everything Brave do with the bat. Like Wyatt, she is in a meagre run of form - no score above 19 in five Commonwealths innings - but that should not detract from her ability.
It's entirely possible Georgia Adams does not get much gametime following her move from Oval Invincibles, but when she does she offers steadiness and reliability.
Maia Bouchier took on the role for Brave in 2021, striking at 144, and it looks pretty clear that she will do so again this year.
There is a minor concern over the form of Dunkley and Wyatt, but as is the case with short-form cricket, it only takes one innings to change the landscape. Four of the expected top five are right-handers - with Mandhana the exception. Brave are reliant on strong showings from that top five, as well, with not a lot of runs expected to come from the lower middle order and tail. In 2021, that rarely happened. When it did, in the final as the top three all made ducks, they collapsed completely.
Sophia Dunkley will be tasked with anchoring the Brave innings [Getty Images]
Brave's seam attack is impressive, and covers most bases. There is Shrubsole, the veteran campaigner; Lauren Bell, the successor to Shrubsole who can get a new ball swinging with reckless abandon; Tara Norris, the American international left-armer who offers a different angle; McGrath, disciplined in her lines and lengths; and Freya Kemp, another left-armer who has recently broken into the England squad.
Strano (off-spin) and Wellington (leg-spin) are the principle threats, while Dunkley can also bowl leg breaks. Brave will line up in any given game with at least seven genuine bowling options, which could be crucial to captain Shrubsole.
Ten-ball over candidate
Wellington was used in the role plenty in 2021. In fact, Brave made their intentions to use the Hundred's unique rule very clear in their first game, when she was given two sets of 10 - and ended up only going for 10 runs. Wellington bowled five 10-ball stints across the competition.
Brave will be hoping Amanda-Jade Wellington can recapture her form of last year [Getty Images]
In the deep, there are few better than Wyatt - who is a dynamo on the boundary. Mandhana is a reliable pair of hands in the ring. No one took more outfield catches than Bouchier's six in 2021.
Who takes the gloves?
Carla Rudd is the Southern Vipers wicketkeeper and she'll have the job for Brave again in 2022. The 28-year-old has quick hands, though her batting is a weakness.
Changes from 2021: McGrath for Taylor, the West Indies allrounder, is the main change. Strano is new to the squad. Kemp joins after a breakthrough 2022, and the squad has been bolstered by the Sunrisers batter Gardner and Adams - who could bulk up the middle order.
Ground: The Ageas Bowl. The Ageas in Southampton has large square boundaries and is often very receptive to spin.
Sound from the ground: Ciel, Wild Front and Caity Baser are all scheduled to perform at the Ageas Bowl during the competition.
Fixtures: August 12 - London Spirit (h, 3pm), August 14 - Oval Invincibles (a, 2.30pm), August 18 - Manchester Originals (h, 3.30pm), August 22 - Welsh Fire (a, 3pm), August 25 - Trent Rockets (h, 3.30pm), August 31 - Northern Superchargers (a, 11.30am)
Squad: Tahlia McGrath, Georgia Adams, Lauren Bell, Maia Bouchier, Sophia Dunkley, Smriti Mandhana, Tara Norris, Carla Rudd, Paige Scholfield, Anya Shrubsole, Amanda-Jade Wellington, Danni Wyatt, Jo Gardner, Freya Kemp, Ella McCaughan, Molly Strano
Possible XI: Danni Wyatt, Smriti Mandhana, Sophia Dunkley, Tahlia McGrath, Maia Bouchier, Amanda-Jade Wellington, Anya Shrubsole, Carla Rudd, Tara Norris, Freya Kemp, Lauren Bell