The Men's Hundred outright predictions: Invincibles can dethrone champions
Only a matter of weeks after the conclusion of the Twenty20 Blast, English cricket's freshest franchise competition, The Hundred, returns on Wednesday with the men's tournament getting under way one week before the women's.
Once again, the 100-ball tournament features eight teams from across the country and begins with a group stage in which each side will play each team once, along with a bonus match against their regional rivals.
Following the completion of the group stage, the top three sides will progress to the knockouts, which feature an eliminator match and the final.
Brave call to take on champions
Southern Brave came out on top in the inaugural men's edition of The Hundred last year, defeating Birmingham Phoenix by 32 runs in the final at Lord's.
And in 2022, they again look like one of the teams to beat with captain James Vince, fresh from guiding Hampshire Hawks to the T20 Blast title, leading their charge.
They have a power-packed batting line-up with Tim David, Marcus Stoinis and Quinton de Kock all worth keeping an eye on, while Tymal Mills is a dangerous paceman with the ball.
Brave have better depth than most of their rivals but the potentially lengthy absences of de Kock and Stoinis at different stages in the tournament could be a cause for concern.
Phoenix expected to go close
Expected to be one of Southern Brave's closest competitors are the team they beat in last year's final - Birmingham Phoenix.
The Midlands side finished above Brave at the top of the group standings last year, winning six of their eight matches to book their place in the final, and should go well again.
Captain Moeen Ali is a former T20 Blast winner with plenty of Indian Premier League experience behind him, while Will Smeed and Liam Livingstone are great power-hitters.
However, Daniel Vettori may not be the ideal leader having previously struggled coaching in franchise cricket, their middle-order options are not the greatest and the uncertainty surrounding Tom Abell's fitness will not help matters.
Oval Invincibles looking strong
With four wins recorded in the regular season, Oval Invincibles only just missed out on the knockout stage in last year's The Hundred and they could go at least a step further in 2022.
Top-order batsman Jason Roy is going through a rough patch right now but this tournament offers him a great chance to rediscover form before the T20 World Cup later in the year.
Sam Curran enjoyed a decent T20 Blast and is set to be available for the full The Hundred campaign, and he is one to watch with both bat and ball in hand.
Securing the services of Rilee Rossouw, who struck 623 runs for Somerset in the Blast, for only £60,000 also looks a great bit of business and the South African could feel right at home on the Oval pitch.
And then there is Reece Topley, who is set to lead their attack after a terrific breakthrough summer of white-ball cricket with England.
Everything is coming together for Oval Invincibles heading into this year's The Hundred.
Their first XI is as good as any team in the competition and if Roy hits form and they stay clear of injuries, they could have a great shot at lifting the trophy.