CAPTAIN James Vince hopes keeping hold of the core of the squad will be a key factor in Southern Brave's attempts to retain The Hundred title, but insisted: "I don’t expect to go into this competition and dominate every game."
Despite losing their opening two matches, Brave's men won the inaugural event last year, beating Birmingham Phoenix in the final at Lord's.
The unique competition sees both sides face 100 balls per innings, with the 2022 edition getting underway at the Ageas Bowl tomorrow night, with the holders hosting Welsh Fire (7pm).
Looking ahead to the Southern Brave's attempts to retain their title, Hampshire hero Vince told the Daily Echo: "I'm really excited. Last year, to win it in the first year was fantastic.
"It was a bit of an unknown going into the competition, how it would go down and the crowds etcetera. But the grounds were full and the atmosphere was incredible. Particularly locally at our ground, it’s not always an easy ground to sell out and the support was fantastic.
"Hopefully much more of the same this year. It would be great to see as many people back at the Ageas Bowl as possible."
Discussing the crowds buying into the new format, Vince added: "I think the entertainment at the grounds, along with the cricket, made it just a good evening for people to come and watch.
"I had lots of friends that aren’t necessarily that interested in cricket that started messaging or were speaking to family about The Hundred.
"So I think it definitely caught the eye of people that weren’t necessarily that engaged in cricket before. And in the local area as well.
"So if it’s had the same effect across all the franchises, then it’s been a really big success. Hopefully we can build on that from last year and replicate it, if not make it even better."
Many members of the class of 2021 have been retained by the Brave again for another year, including Jake Lintott, Paul Stirling and Chris Jordan. Vince will again skipper the side, with Sri Lankan legend Mahela Jayawardene as coach.
"I’m sure other teams have probably changed around a bit more than us and will provide a slightly different challenge, but we’ve been lucky enough to keep the majority of the group together and used our 10 retentions that were available," England batter Vince explained.
"I think one of the biggest challenges last year was, people came together and maybe hadn’t played with each other.
"But across the country, through England and Lions programmes and stuff like that, you do get to know quite a few players. So in terms of friendships and bonding off the field, I don’t think it was a major issue.
"But definitely on the field and the roles that people were given, trying to marry that up with what they’d done at their county and try and get people clear roles was the biggest challenge.
"And keeping the core of the group together, hopefully those roles stay relatively similar to last year, which will be a big boost for us if we can do that.
"We’re also aware that things can change, someone gets injured, or slightly out of form. We’ll have to adapt as we go.
"But it’s nice to go into the season with a plan that worked last year and something to guide us through the initial phases of the competition this year."
Having won the event in 2021, Brave head into this summer as bookmakers' favourites to repeat the feat again.
Asked how he feels about being the fancied team for glory, Vince said: "I think it’s good that we’ve got in that position where we’ve obviously won the competition and other teams will respect what we’ve done.
"But just because we won it last year, doesn’t mean we’re just going to turn up this year and be able to dominate every game and win it again easily.
"Other people who have come up against us might come up with different plans but also might have worked out different things and picked up different personnel. So I’m sure there will be lots of different challenges.
"I don’t necessarily think we’ll be expected to win it this year. Everyone knows that every franchise has got a strong team.
"Having won it last year, I’m sure we will be up there, but it’s such a high quality standard across the competition, and with the format being as short as it is, it’s going to be unpredictable at times.
"So I don’t expect to go into this competition and dominate every game. I’m sure it’s going to be another tough season."
Southern Brave's women, who lost in last year's final, begin their quest for glory on August 12.