What does it take to win a major cricket final at Lord’s?
English cricket has enjoyed a golden age in recent years with both the men’s and women’s national teams enjoying global success, while at domestic level The Hundred has established itself as a competition players are desperate to win.
“Winning The Hundred ranks among the highest achievements in my career,” says England Men’s T20 World Cup winner Dawid Malan, who was the top run-scorer as Trent Rockets lifted the title last year.
“It's the premium domestic cricket tournament in England, and I am immensely proud to have won it."
Southern Brave all-rounder Georgia Adams goes one step further suggesting The Hundred has become the “pinnacle of domestic and global women’s cricket” after just three seasons.
Adams was part of the Oval Invincibles’ inaugural title-winning team and will bid to lift the trophy for a second time this weekend with the Ageas Bowl based Southern Brave.
It could be a Brave double as Hampshire skipper James Vince leads the men into action on Saturday against the Manchester Originals in the Eliminator semi. The winners face The Oval Invincibles in Sunday’s final.
"Securing victory in the first year of the women's Hundred will forever be etched in my memory,” Adams said. “It represents the pinnacle of domestic and global franchise women's cricket.
“The transformative impact of the Hundred on women's cricket cannot be overstated, and the trophy itself carries significant weight, both literally and figuratively."
After four weeks of intense cricket, this year’s women’s and men’s The Hundred titles will be decided on one of cricket’s grandest stages at Lord’s on Sunday.
But what does it take to emerge victorious in the pressure cooker atmosphere of a final at headquarters.
Malan stresses the importance of being consistent in your preparation, adding: “Coaches should maintain their regular routines, allowing players to focus on their individual preparation.
“Last year we had consistency and stability, because everyone was in top form and no one was looking over their shoulder in terms of selection.”
Adams, whose Brave side will face Northern Superchargers or Welsh Fire at Lord’s, insists having a relaxed approach to the final is vital after her experience with the Invincibles.
“In 2021, we (Invincibles) won a tight eliminator game (against Birmingham Phoenix) the day before the final and adrenaline and fatigue were high in the squad.
"We didn’t have any team meetings, or do any tactical preparation, and we only had 10 minutes of warm up before the start because of rain!
“We felt we were underdogs, and that relaxed vibe helped us.”
Finals increase the pressure and expectations on players, and the team that manages pressure better usually emerges victorious.
For Adams that includes preparing for the different atmosphere of a women’s final than that experienced during the group stage.
“The atmosphere during the final is electrifying,” she said. “The stadium is packed from the first ball, whereas sometimes in women’s The Hundred matches the atmosphere builds up in the second innings.”
Malan believes that experience helps players deal with the pressure of a final, pointing to the game-changing impact Lewis Gregory had on last year’s men’s decider.
Gregory had experience playing for England and also in big domestic matches with Somerset – he has also since captained the team that won the Vitality Blast last month.
With 11 needed from the final set, the all-rounder produced an incredible flick over square leg for six to the tilt the balance in the Rockets favour.
On such moments are titles won and lost. Next ball Greogory helped a leg-side delivery past short-fine leg for four and suddenly the pressure of the situation dissolved and victory was secured with two balls to spare.
Adams believes that certain types of players thrive in pressurised situations, singling out the incredible performance of Invincibles and South Africa all-rounder Marizanne Kapp in the 2021 and 2022 women’s Hundred final.
In the 2021 final, Kapp added an important 26 runs with the bat, before producing a devastating spell of bowling that removed the Brave’s top three batters all for ducks in a consecutive 10-ball set. Later, she bowled Lauren Bell to seal the contest and end with incredible figures of four for nine off her 18 balls.
Last year Kapp produced hugely economical figures of one for 19 off her 20 deliveries to help restrict the Brave to 101 for seven, before scoring an unbeaten 37 to secure back-to-back titles.
“Some players thrive under pressure and go into their own unique zones,” Adams said. “Kapp showed the composure in both finals to steer her team to victory.”
The conditions at Lord’s themselves present different challenges for the players.
Malan has plenty of experience of playing there, after a 13-year career at Middlesex, and warns that the wicket can often be deceiving.
“Sometimes it looks like it will play well but it doesn’t and sometimes it looks tricky but plays well, the boundaries can also feel very big,” he said.
Malan revealed that the Rockets saw Lord’s as an advantage in last year’s final, using the challenging conditions to stifle the big-hitters of the Manchester Originals such as Phil Salt, Tristan Stubbs and Ashton Turner.
“We felt our team was probably better suited for a low-scoring contest,” he said.
The Originals could return to Lord’s, they face Southern Brave in Saturday’s Eliminator, at the first time of asking as they look to go one better with the experience of England Men’s World Cup-winning captain Jos Buttler leading them.
Buttler knows more than anyone what it feels like to win a low-scoring major final at Lord’s as the man who collected Jason Roy’s throw to run out Martin Guptill and secure victory in the 2019 Men’s World Cup final by ‘the barest of margins’. Hopefully such drama awaits on Sunday.