Southern Brave compile explosive batting line-up for the inaugural Hundred tournament this summer
It is a tournament not without its critics – and that’s being kind - but one which English cricket’s governing body is desperately hoping will inject fresh life into the sport domestically.
Eight city-based franchises have been created specifically for a competition which has been designed to attract top overseas and domestic talent - from both the men’s and the women’s games - and showcase it in a new format.
The Hundred, like Twenty20 before it, has come in for an avalanche of abuse from cricketing traditionalists, and many of the counties not selected as host venues have felt excluded from the 16.4 overs a side tournament.
But the ECB are keen to hype up their brainchild which launches on July 21 - around the time the school holidays start, and that’s no coincidence - with a women’s game at Surrey’s Kia Oval.
An ECB press release this week gushed: ‘Combining a new short, fast format of cricket, with each game lasting less than three hours, and incredible entertainment beyond sport, The Hundred will make cricket more accessible to reach a broader audience. It’s simple: 100 balls per team, most runs wins, so every ball counts.’
A bit like every cricket match, really, but I’ve no wish to rain on their parade just yet, not before a six has been struck in anger. And, looking at some of the players signed up, there should be many of those ...
Locally, one of the franchises - the Southern Brave - are based at Hampshire’s Ageas Bowl and will play four matches there against Birmingham Phoenix (July 30), Northern Superchargers (August 7), Welsh Fire (August 11) and the Oval Invincibles (August 16).
Uniquely, both the men’s and women’s games will be played on the same day at the same ground.
Regarding the men’s side, Brave have certainly compiled a mouth-watering batting line-up which could tempt many cricket fans and intrigued newcomers to see whether all the ECB hype is worthwhile.
Prior to yesterday’s final draft, they already boasted Hampshire skipper James Vince, Marcus Stoinis - holder of the highest T20 innings in Australian Big Bash history - and big-hitting West Indian all-rounder Andre Russell.
They subsequently added to that explosive top order by signing Australian superstar David Warner - once ranked as the No 1 one-day batsman in world cricket and (inserts tongue in cheek) a man all English cricket fans love to give a warm welcome to ...
Warner was a first-round pick by Brave in 2020 but pulled out in the early stages of the pandemic due to scheduling issues. The tournament was subsequently abandoned with no hope of fans being allowed into grounds.
Warner had not been expected to re-enter this year’s draft, but the postponement of Australia’s tour of South Africa has eased his workload.
He was one of over 250 overseas players who were included in yesterday’s auction, all bidding to fill just one of seven slots among the eight franchises who are each limited to three foreign signings.
He was one of 10 overseas players who had the highest possible reserve price of £100,000.
The 34-year-old was the third player picked in the draft after West Indies pair Nic Pooran and Kieron Pollard were snapped up by Manchester Originals and Welsh Fire respectively.
Mahela Jayawardene, Brave’s head coach, said: ‘To be able to bring David (Warner) back into the fold is a huge boost for our team.
‘We were so excited when we grabbed him in the first draft, so it’s great to have him back.’
Jayawardene has every right to be excited; Warner is one of world cricket’s most destructive opening batsmen with 24 Test centuries, 18 ODI hundreds and one T20I century to his name.
With 9,824 runs, he is the fifth highest run scorer in T20 history. Only West Indian master blaster Chris Gayle (a barely believable 22) has scored more hundreds than Warner (8) while the latter has also plundered 80 half-centuries - 38 of them for Sunrisers in the Indian Premier League, the world’s best T20 franchise event.
Two of Warner’s centuries came in the space of four days for New South Wales in the 2011 Champions League tournament, including a career best 135 not out off 69 balls against Chennai Super Kings.
The last of his 18 ODI centuries was scored last month in a remarkable game against India in Mumbai.
After the hosts had been bowled out for 255, Warner and fellow opener Aaron Finch both plundered tons in a stunning 10-wicket success. Warner’s unbeaten 128 off 112 balls included 17 fours and three sixes while Finch was undefeated on 110 off 114 deliveries.
The Sydney-born batsman has four times passed 150 in ODI cricket, with a top score of 179 against Pakistan at Adelaide in 2017.
As for Russell, he is one of a handful of players who have become ‘guns for hire’ in recent years as T20 franchise cricket has grown.
He has only ever played 17 first class matches, but has 348 T20 appearances to his name.
The 32-year-old has plundered 5,873 runs at 26.81, while his 308 wickets - including eight four-wicket hauls - places him 10th in the all-time T20 list.
Russell’s highest ever T20 score - for the Jamaican Tallawahs against Trinbago in the Caribbean Super League in August 2018 - remains one of the most extraordinary innings ever played in the format.
Replying to Trinbago’s daunting 223-6 total, the Tallawahs slumped to 41-5 off 6.1 overs and were staring a hefty defeat firmly in the face.
Enter Russell, batting at No 7, to plunder 13 sixes and six fours in an astonishing 121 not out off 49 balls as his side won on 225-6 with three balls remaining
In fairness, Trinbago can’t have been too surprised - two years earlier, Russell came in at No 6 against them for the Tallawahs and blasted an unbeaten 100 off 44 balls with 11 sixes and just three fours.
Russell was also responsible for one of the finest all-round displays in T20 history.
Playing for the Knights in the South African Ram Slam T20 Challenge in December 2015, he first took 4-11 in four overs as the Titans were restricted to 136-9.
In reply, Knights were shaking on 54-4 off 8.3 overs when Russell came in at No 6 and promptly struck seven sixes in a blistering 66 not out off just 23 deliveries.
Russell has cleared the boundary ropes 461 times in his T20 career - the fifth highest in history.
Only Chris Gayle (1,003), Kieron Pollard (703), Brendan McCullum (485) and ex-Hampshire all-rounder Shane Watson (467) have struck more sixes. Warner is 10th with 373.
And the ECB will be hoping for many more this summer as a surfeit of sixes is one sure fire way to keep the youngsters (and their parents) they are aiming to attract to the sport interested.
Stoinis is not as well known as Warner, Russell or Vince but his franchise record is highly impressive.
Though he averages only 20.33 in 19 T20 visits to the crease for his country, he averages 52.75 from 10 innings for Royal Challengers Bangalore in the IPL and 37.98 from 69 innings for the Melbourne Stars.
Vince was on the receiving end of Stoinis’ record-breaking career best score in an Australian BBL game in January 2020.
Opening for Stars, Stoinis struck 13 fours and eight sixes in belting 147 not out off 79 balls against Vince and his Sydney Sixers colleagues.
It set a new record for the highest innings in BBL history, a record which still stands.
Only nine batsmen have ever scored more in a T20 innings.
Brave yesterday completed their 15-man squad with the signing of former Hampshire star Danny Briggs.
He becomes the fifth Sussex player to be signed after Jofra Archer, Chris Jordan, Delray Rawlins and George Garton.
All-rounder Liam Dawson is the only other Hampshire player in the squad apart from Vince.
Briggs is the third highest English-qualified wicket-taker in T20 history with 197 victims.
The 29-year-old took 119 of them in six seasons for Hampshire between 2010-2016 - when the county qualified for T20 Finals Day in the first five of those years.
The only two English players who have taken more career T20 wickets are his Sussex colleagues Ravi Bopara (234) and Chris Jordan (227).
Meanwhile, Brave women’s team head coach Charlotte Edwards has signed England all-rounder Sophia Dunkley.
Elsewhere among the franchises, some of the biggest names in world cricket have been snapped up.
The Lord’s-based London Spirit have retained ex-Hampshire star Glenn Maxwell, currently ranked No 3 in the ICC T20I all-rounder ratings and No 5 with the bat. They have also signed Mohammad Nabi, the No 1 rated all-rounder.
Warner’s Australian ODI opener partner Finch has signed for the Northern Superchargers, as has Mujeeeb Ur Rahman, the No 3 ranked T20I bowler in the world.
Joe Root’s Trent Rockets, meanwhile, boast the men currently rated No 1 in the ICC batting and bowling charts - Dawid Malan and Rashid Khan.
Who knows how The Hundred will pan out. It could well go to enjoy the sort of success T20 cricket has – which no traditionalist would ever have predicted – or it could be a massive flop.
One thing is for sure, though; if it is a huge flop, at least it will be one featuring a host of world class performers.
Brave men’s squad: Jofra Archer, Andre Russell, David Warner, James Vince, Chris Jordan, Marcus Stoinis, Tymal Mills, Liam Dawson, Delray Rawlins, Alex Davies, George Garton, Craig Overton, Danny Briggs, Max Waller, Ross Whiteley.
Women’s squad: Danni Wyatt, Anya Shrubsole, Stafanie Taylor, Sophie Dunkley, Maia Bouchier, Paige Scholfield, Freya Kemp, Fritha Morris, Tara Norris, Carla Rudd, Lauren Bell, Sonia Odedra, Amelia Kerr.