After the resounding the success of last year’s inaugural tournament, the bish-bash-bosh cricket competition is back.
In case you didn’t see any of it in 2021, the rules are fairly simple: two teams face just 100 balls to set or chase a target and the side that gets the most runs, wins.
Following the group stage, Southern Brave comfortably defeated Birmingham Phoenix in last year’s men’s final, winning by 32 runs. Meanwhile, the Oval Invincibles won the women’s tournament, easily defeating Southern Brave by 48 runs in the final.
As last year, the eight franchises are stacked with some of the best male and female cricketers from around the world. And also similar to 2021, all games will be screened on Sky Sports, with 10 of the men’s and eight of the women’s matches available live on BBC Two.
Isa Guha presents the first of those fixtures tonight with Southern Brave men’s team hosting Welsh Fire at The Ageas Bowl in Hampshire.
Coached by Sri Lankan Mahela Jayawardene and captained by James Vince, the defending champions are the bookies favourites to lift the trophy again.
And with a squad containing big-hitting batters Marcus Stoinis and Quinton de Kock and lethal English pacemen Craig Overton, Jofra Archer, Tymal Mills and Chris Jordan, it’s obvious why.
Their opponents are skippered by the star of the English cricketing summer so far, batsman Jonny Bairstow.
In Ben Duckett and Glenn Phillips, the Fire had two of the five highest-scoring batters in last year’s tournament, and they have even bolstered their squad by bringing in Australia spinner Adam Zampa, South African big-hitter David Miller and Pakistan fast bowler Naseem Shah as their overseas players.
If last year’s games between the sides is anything to go by, it should be an explosive start to the tournament.
The first instalment came at Sophia Gardens where the Fire dominated. Bairstow struck a rapid 72 while Duckett contributed 53, as the Fire reached 165. Jimmy Neesham claimed three wickets, conceding just five runs in 15 balls bowled, and Brave could only manage 147.
Then, at The Ageas Bowl, Brave came out on top. Once again, they scored 147 batting second, but this time it was enough. De Kock and Vince both passed 50 as Brave only lost two wickets.
Earlier, their bowlers had put the squeeze on Fire, restricting them to only 144, with spinners Danny Briggs and Jake Lintott both picking up two wickets each.
Tomorrow’s game sees an all-London encounter between Oval Invincibles and London Spirit, captained by Eoin Morgan, at The Oval. Under the direction of wicketkeeper-batsman Sam Billings, the Invincibles squad features England stars Rory Burns, Jason Roy, Sam and Tom Curran, and Reece Topley.
West Indies batsman Kieron Pollard was the Spirit’s No 1 pick in draft. He is joined by England spinner Liam Dawson and Australian fast bowler Riley Meredith.
Finally, on Friday, Manchester Originals begin their campaign against Northern Superchargers at Old Trafford.
England’s white-ball captain Jos Buttler will lead an Originals side that finished a disappointing sixth last year, but which now includes West Indian all-rounder Andre Russell, Sri Lankan leg-spinner Wanindu Hasaranga and Australian fast bowler Sean Abbott.
Meanwhile, England Test Ben Stokes recently dropped out of the Superchargers squad, but new signings Dwayne Bravo and Pakistan paceman Wahab Riaz should make them strong in the bowling department.