Men's Hundred finals day predictions: In-form Manchester can gain revenge
Only into its second season, a new winner will be crowned the men's Hundred champions at Lord's on Saturday when the Trent Rockets take on the Manchester Originals, from 6.30pm.
The Rockets set the early standard in the competition and proved to be the strongest franchise over the group stages, finishing top of the standings with 12 points, losing just two of their eight games.
The Originals overcame a slow start to ultimately finish second in the table courtesy of a better net run-rate than the London Spirit and Birmingham Phoenix after all three finished on 10 points, before Manchester overcame the Spirit in Friday's eliminator to secure their date with the Rockets.
Power-packed Rockets flying high
Trent's success has largely been built on their tremendous power with the bat, aptly demonstrated by their two openers, who both will have ambitions of T20 World Cup glory later this year.
Dawid Malan has clubbed a whopping 358 runs to top the run-scoring charts going into the final, with his aggregate tally coming off just 208 balls for a superb strike rate of 172.12.
The England left-hander has been consistent with the bat, having hit four half-centuries while he has been unbeaten twice to boast an impressive average of 59.67.
Alex Hales, who is hoping his form will earn him a recall to the England set-up at some point at least, has not quite matched his team-mate but has still amassed 251 runs to lie fifth in the run-scoring standings, with an average of 31.38 and strike rate of 154.94.
Colin Munro also makes the top 10 and the depth of their batting line-up is arguably the strongest in the competition, with the only surprise that it was unable to deliver as much last year.
Momentum with Manchester
Having finished only sixth in 2021 with just two wins, there was a feeling of deja vu when the Originals lost their first three matches this season, the last of those being an eight-wicket defeat to the Rockets.
However, the Originals turned their form around and enjoyed a five-match winning streak to claim second in the standings, with that run extended to six when they bettered the Spirit by five wickets in Friday's eliminator.
Phil Salt has been the key performer for Manchester with the bat, second only to Malan in runs scored, having flayed 342 in his nine innings for an average of 42.75 and strike-rate of 154.75.
The England man's top score of 70 came against the Rockets in game three in what was a losing cause after Malan's unbeaten 98, but he has been instrumental to the Originals rise.
Jos Buttler and Andre Russell have both offered valuable support with the bat and their absences from the final - due to injury and other international commitments respectively - will be a massive blow.
Still, the Originals have managed to find a way to get this far without those star names, with the likes of stand-in captain Laurie Evans, Wayne Madsen and Tristan Stubbs all getting amongst the runs to suggest Manchester are not a one-man team.
It was Evans who smashed 72 off 34 balls to break the back of the run chase in Friday's eliminator against the Spirit, and the Originals will go to Lord's with plenty of confidence.
Given they finished top of the pile, it is no surprise to see the Rockets installed as the favourites, particularly having come out on top in a high-scoring thriller at Old Trafford in the group-stage clash between these two sides.
It is also easy to suggest that whichever team wins the opening partnership battle may go on to win the match, and on the face of it Trent look to have the advantage in that respect.
However, a lot may depend on who wins the toss and the Rockets' bowling attack has been hurt by the absences of both Rashid Khan and Tabraiz Shamsi, and the Originals hold the edge with ball in hand.
Paul Walter has been one of the finds of the tournament having taken 12 wickets to lie fourth in the standings, made even more impressive by his economy rate of 120.87.
The 28-year-old is no mug with the bat either and is certainly worth considering in the player of the match markets, as well as finishing as his team's top bowler.
That is likely to depend on Manchester winning the match of course and odds against for the form team is tempting, as is over 13.5 sixes, given the big-hitting power of both sides.
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