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Eliminator (N), The Oval, August 20, 2021, The Hundred Men's Competition
(68/100 balls, T:97) 97/3

Brave won by 7 wickets (with 32 balls remaining)

Player Of The Match

Southern Brave the form team as Trent Rockets seek to rediscover spark

After mismatch in opening game, Brave came back strongly to finish second in group stage

Alan Gardner
Alan Gardner
Jake Lintott celebrates a breakthrough with Tymal Mills, Southern Brave vs Oval Invincibles, Men's Hundred, Ageas Bowl, August 16, 2021

Southern Brave won five games out of six to finish second in the group stage  •  Getty Images

Big picture

How far has the Hundred come in a few short weeks? Never mind about the wider debate on the ECB's newest competition, a rematch of the game between these two sides on the opening weekend should tell us plenty about the early evolution of 100-ball cricket.
Southern Brave were tipped by many as having the strongest squad for the men's competition, but were blown away on their first outing, losing by nine wickets at Trent Bridge: a poor showing with the bat was compounded by some odd selection, with no less than three left-arm fingerspinners in the XI. Mahela Jayawardene has almost patented an approach for slow starts with his Mumbai Indians team in the IPL, but Brave then lost to little-fancied Welsh Fire and came within a couple of balls of defeat to Birmingham Phoenix. Three losses from three would have been hard to come back from.
But Phoenix's failure to bowl their sets quickly enough was an early example of the impact of losing fielders outside the ring (the in-game penalty for missing the cut-off) - Chris Jordan pilfered nine from two legitimate deliveries and Brave haven't looked back. Jayawardene's team managed five wins from six, the other being a rain-wrecked game in Manchester.
Two players who missed the opening encounter with Rockets have proved integral to their fortunes since. Quinton de Kock has the second-highest strike rate of any batter to have faced more than 10 balls, while Jake Lintott, the left-arm wristspinner signed as a Blast wildcard, has emerged as a potent wicket-taking option.
Despite their fast start, Rockets' journey to the knockout stages was arguably more arduous. Marchant de Lange's five-for and unbeaten fifties from D'Arcy Short and Dawid Malan set them on their way to the first of three wins in a row; but three defeats from four followed, and Lewis Gregory's side had to hold their nerve to beat Manchester Originals in their final match and ensure a top-three spot.
A strong bowling side, led by the wiles of Rashid Khan - with 12 the joint-leading wicket-taker in the men's competition - and the pace of de Lange, Rockets have a plethora of all-round options, but have struggled for consistency with the bat. Malan has three half-centuries to go with four single-figure scores, while Alex Hales' highlight so far came after he was dropped by Ben Stokes and went on to seal a dramatic win over Northern Superchargers.
Everything went to plan in their opening match but Gregory has admitted captaincy had become something of an exercise in "gut feel" as the tournament wore on. With Jayawardene and James Vince having seemingly found a successful formula to finish second, above Rockets, round two looks like being a much more even contest.

In the spotlight

Whatever happens at The Oval, Jake Lintott's rapid rise has been one of the stories of the Hundred. An unknown left-arm spinner who was struggling for a county gig when the tournament was conceived, he grabbed his chance in T20 with Warwickshire in 2020 and has leapt up the pecking order after Brave took a punt on his ability to turn it both ways. With 10 wickets in seven games, he lies behind only the two Rashids - Adil and Khan - in the men's comp standings, and his threat during the middle period of the innings means Tymal Mills and Chris Jordan can be left to concentrate on the death.
Dawid Malan is Rockets' leading run-scorer, one of only four men to reach the 200-mark during the group stage - but his strike rate of 119.04 is lower than pretty much every other top-order batter in the competition, bar Chris Lynn. Rockets pushed him up to open in their final game as a tactical move, his 52 off 46 perfectly paced in a small chase, but Moeen Ali joking about how his team "kept Malan in" on the way to victory at Edgbaston highlights the double-edged nature to his approach. With a Test call-up in his back pocket, Malan will probably relish another high-profile chance to silence the doubters.

Team news

Brave will have to change a winning side, with Colin de Grandhomme departing for New Zealand duty - Tim David, the Singapore-born Australian who scored a pair of brutal hundreds for Surrey in the Royal London Cup last week, has been drafted in and could walk straight into the XI. Max Waller and Archie Lenham provide further wristspin options, while Craig Overton is available after his involvement with England's Test squad.
Southern Brave: (possible) 1 Quinton de Kock (wk), 2 Paul Stirling, 3 James Vince (capt), 4 Alex Davies, 5 Tim David, 6 Ross Whiteley, 7 George Garton, 8 Chris Jordan, 9 Danny Briggs, 10 Tymal Mills, 11 Jake Lintott
Rockets have no injury concerns and will have Malan available for both the eliminator and final (should they qualify) before he joins up with England ahead of the third Test. Gregory has not been fit to bowl because of a back problem but the presence of Samit Patel and Steve Mullaney allows for plenty of flexibility in the middle order.
Trent Rockets: (possible) 1 Alex Hales, 2 D'Arcy Short, 3 Dawid Malan, 4 Samit Patel, 5 Lewis Gregory (capt), 6 Steven Mullaney, 7 Tom Moores (wk), 8 Rashid Khan, 9 Matt Carter, 10 Sam Cook, 11 Marchant de Lange
Key stats
  • With 189 runs from 106 balls, de Kock's strike rate of 178.30 is second only to Birmingham Phoenix's Will Smeed (182.22) among regular batters.
  • Rockets' nine-wicket win over Brave remains the highest margin of victory by a team chasing in the men's competition.
  • Rockets have four bowlers with eight or more wickets - Rashid, de Lange, Patel and Matt Carter - while Brave have one - Lintott.
  • Alan Gardner is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo. @alanroderick

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