The Hundred, the ECB’s new flagship tournament, has finally arrived, and it seems there could hardly have been more headlines generated ahead of kick-off, with the action set to begin on Wednesday.
Not all, if any, of the talk has been of a positive nature with the new format likened in some quarters to English cricket’s version of “Brexit”, although it could be argued that the political vote on European membership was split down the middle, while it is tougher to find backers of The Hundred, outside of those that came up with the idea.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the inaugural event was postponed for a year, allowing for further opinion to be given, but that will only have benefitted the competition because, as we all know, there is no such thing as bad publicity. However, the talking can finally stop.
It’s new, it looks certain to be exciting, and we will find out in due course whether it has the desired effect that the powers that be hope for.
More Explosive Short Format
The Hundred is essentially a speeded up T20 format, with each innings 100 balls compared to 120, placing a greater emphasis (if that was possible) on boundaries.
The eight-franchise system hasn’t gone down well with the traditionalists, but a condensed team structure should allow those sides involved to sort the wheat from the chaff, and in theory, each team will be loaded with talent.
One particular wrinkle that catches the eye is the captains having to decide whether to use a bowler for a five or ten-ball block, a move that could have a dramatic effect on the final outcome, with each bowler limited to a maximum of 20 balls in the innings.
There are still the powerplays and fielding restrictions, while the bowling side can take one time out in the innings, and, like with anything new, there may be a little time needed to adjust to the vagaries of this new format as there is a certain element of the unknown.
Brave Head Outright Betting
That is reflected in the betting, with the waters muddied by a host of withdrawals due to the coronavirus pandemic and its associated quarantines and protocols, as well as the hectic international calendar.
Southern Brave have been installed as the early
5/1 favourites, although the outsiders in the field are priced up at
7/1, indicating that even the bookies are uncertain as to how this tournament will ultimately pan out.
A case could be realistically made for all sides involved, but the
7/1 on the Northern Superchargers looks a touch on the generous side, despite Aaron Finch’s withdrawal.
Superchargers Offer Outright Value
Faf du Plessis was tearing up the Indian Premier League before that was halted earlier this year, averaging 64 after amassing 320 runs to lie in third place in the batting standings, with a top score of 95 not out and a better strike rate than the two players above him.
The likes of Chris Lynn, Adam Lyth and Tom Kohler-Cadmore add depth to the line-up, but it could be Harry Brook that further enhances his burgeoning reputation as his average of 80.83 in a 485-run tally led Yorkshire to the quarter-finals of the T20 Blast.
The bowling attack has plenty of quality about it, too, with Adil Rashid and David Willey still key in England’s white-ball sides, with Mujeeb Ur Rahman and Callum Parkinson adding further spin options, while Brydon Carse impressed with a five-wicket haul on a recent call-up to the national side.
And then there is Ben Stokes, a premier all-rounder who is almost capable of winning games single-handedly with either bat and ball in hand, as well as his elite fielding. Although the India Test series may impact his availability, any game he will be available for is a massive bonus.
Originals Can Justify Joint-Favouritism
Sophie Ecclestone could be the star of the tournament and has the capability to bamboozle opposing batswomen with her slow left-arm, and she currently tops the ICC world rankings in T20 cricket.
The South African powerhouse duo of Lizelle Lee and Mignon du Preez, along with the all-round talents of India T20 captain Harmanpreet Kaur make for a very strong line-up, bolstered by England’s Kate Cross, along with World Cup winner Alex Hartley, and the Originals will be a tough nut to crack.
*All odds correct at time of writing