James Vince stars as Southern Brave hammer Welsh Fire in Hundred opener

James Vince continued his brilliant white-ball form as Southern Brave began their Hundred defence with a nine-wicket hammering of Welsh Fire.

Brave captain Vince was the Vitality Blast’s leading scorer with 678 runs and began the second edition of the Hundred with 71 off 41 balls, with opening partner Alex Davies hitting a complementary 26.

Earlier, Fire skipper Ben Duckett struck 40 off 31 deliveries, with the next highest score just 11, as Fire struggled to a below par 107 for seven in their 100 balls.

Craig Overton dominated the top order with two for 21 before Chris Jordan picked up two for 16 before Vince, Davies and Marcus Stoinis were all the batters needed to finish the job with 31 balls to spare.

Vince had come off the back of a brilliant Vitality Blast campaign with Hampshire – where he also captained his county to their third title.

It was imperative not to pass up the opportunity to dismiss him early. Unfortunately, Ryan Higgins fluffed his chance and dropped Vince to the boundary with the fifth ball.

A pair of boundaries through midwicket and point quickly pronounced the error, as Davies struck back-to-back fours off David Payne – the second a stunning straight drive.

Davies swatted a short delivery from Higgins to fall with 36 runs needed in 51 balls while Vince quickly cut firmly to bring up his half-century in 31 deliveries.

He waited until he was on 55 before slog-sweeping his first six before Brave quickly scuttled to victory to maintain their perfect Ageas Bowl record – Vince bettering his best of 60 in 2021.

Earlier, Brave won the toss, decided to bowl and cut the Fire top order down to 31 for three in the 25-ball powerplay, after a spectacular firework display had delayed proceedings.

Brave were without lightning quicks Jofra Archer, Tymal Mills and George Garton for various injury and illness-related issues but it mattered little thanks to their depth.

Overton had Joe Clarke stretching to miscue to cover for a four-ball duck and Tom Banton hoicking to deep square-leg, with 41-year-old Michael Hogan bowling Ollie Pope – who missed a reverse sweep.

Duckett and Sam Hain put on 25, the innings’ highest stand, but wickets continued to fall regularly.

Jake Lintott spun his way into the attack and his googly tickled Hain’s glove with his second ball, while 17-year-old leg spinner Rehan Ahmed and James Fuller’s analysis while wicketless went at under a run-a-ball.

Fuller got the final touch to a chaotic run-out to see Josh Cobb perish and Quinton de Kock’s stand-in easily held on to Higgins on the square boundary.

Left-handed Duckett held things together, although he survived a run-out and dropped catch but dominated on the sweep as all five of his boundaries came behind the wicket.

He lobbed Jordan to mid-on before seeing the teenage Afghan Noor Ahmad jab the first, and only, six of the innings, although it was never going to be enough.