Sasha Putt previews The Hundred (Women’s Competition)
With England’s series against India over, it is time to turn our attention to the biggest event in cricket this summer: The Hundred. With games set to commence on Wednesday, the tournament promises to be a month of exciting cricket, with some of the best international talent on display, despite the withdrawal of many Australian stars due to Covid concerns.
Before the tournament kicks off, here is a run-down of all eight squads ready to do battle this summer, and some pre-tournament predictions as well.
Most noticeable for Birmingham is the loss of Ellyse Perry, arguably the best cricketer in the world and someone who would have bolstered the side with a perfect all-round option. Despite this setback, the Phoenix squad does not lack star power: they have a host of internationals, spearheaded by one of the bright young stars in the game today – Shafali Verma. Backed by England internationals Amy Jones and Georgia Elwiss, with red-hot Evelyn Jones hoping to continue her domestic white-ball form and veteran Erin Burns earning a replacement call-up, the Phoenix top-order appears to be solid and able to score runs quickly.
A youthful bowling core could prove to be feisty as well, with Emily Arlott and Issy Wong both able to take wickets quickly and restrict the run-rate, while Abtaha Maqsood could inject some energy in those middle overs.
This is the squad that could be the most hit-or-miss; if Verma and co. can get firing they’ll easily put up big scores which would be difficult to chase, but an inexperienced bowling attack could prove to be an Achilles heel amongst the more well-rounded sides.
Much like the Edgbaston side, the Spirit have a stacked batting line-up with a host of international stars at their disposal. The England duo of captain Heather Knight and Tammy Beaumont will both be confident after a series win against India, and so should look to anchor the top of the order. Perhaps an even more exciting prospect is to see the fantastic trio of Deandra Dottin, Deepti Sharma and Chloe Tryon in action together, making up what could be the best top-five of the tournament.
Although Dottin, Sharma and Tryon have offered something with the ball at times, this side will need its young bowlers to carry the load. In particular the duo of Freya Davies and Charlie Dean could prove to be difference makers, but the strength of the bowling attack comes in a clear second when considering the power up top.
This being said, the Spirit still have one of the strongest squads this summer, and only need two or three of their stars to get runs on the board to put up a total most sides would struggle to beat, marking them as an early contender for champions.
The Originals display a plethora of options in the bowling department, with England’s Kate Cross and world number one T20I bowler Sophie Ecclestone, backed by former international Alex Hartley, a fearsome attack that will look to take quick wickets early, whilst restricting any chances of scoring.
International imports reinforce Manchester’s batting, with Harmanpreet Kaur, Mignon du Preez and Lizelle Lee solidifying an explosive top order in plenty of form. Joined by Emma Lamb, the first centurion of the Charlotte Edwards T20 Cup and a very handy bowling option, and Cordelia Griffith capable of consistently chipping in with runs, the team at Old Trafford are one of the most complete sides of the tournament, with few weak spots besides potential depth.
A return to top-heavy teams here with the Superchargers boasting an impressive collection of batters with Lauren Winfield-Hill, Laura Wolvaardt, Jemimah Rodrigues, Laura Kimmince, Sterre Kalis and Alice Davidson-Richards all having big scores in their locker. Key for the team will be to bat first and bat big, adopting a more aggressive approach from the outset due to the depth in quality and quick-scoring talent.
Beth Langston could prove to be a very useful pivot for the team, handy with both the bat and ball, but it’s difficult to see where wickets would come from with this side. However, that does set the ground for one of England’s young prospects to announce themselves in a high-profile domestic tournament.
Despite a solid batting core, barring the emergence of a young star I struggle to see this team making a serious impact unless they can consistently put up big totals.
If you’re a fan of the Proteas, then have I got the team for you. Three of South Africa’s greatest ever headline the South London side, with Dane van Niekerk, Marizanne Kapp and Shabnim Ismail a formidable core of players to build any team around. Although van Niekerk is returning from injury her experience will prove to be a lynchpin for the side, with Kapp currently the best ranked ODI all-rounder (third for bowlers) and Ismail the second best T20I bowler. The success of this Invincibles side is likely to come through this trio, particularly if they’re firing on all cylinders.
To call the rest of the squad a ‘supporting cast’ would almost be an insult, considering the talent available. England internationals Tash Farrant and Mady Villiers round out a very strong attack, and Fran Wilson provides experience with the bat.
Batting could be the Invincibles’ weakness, lacking the big-name stars of other teams in the tournament. However, Georgia Adams and Alice Capsey have both shown flashes of form, and so could be crucial for this top order to keep up with their bowling attack. The Invincibles are definitely a team that could surprise a few and make it to the knockout stages.
To me, this is by far the most exciting team in the competition. Above all is world number one ODI batter Stafanie Taylor, who comes into the tournament on a hot streak, having made 49, 105* and 43* in her last three outings. Deadly with the ball as well, the West Indies legend is a must-watch over the summer.
Even without Taylor the Brave roster would pose a problem for anyone. World Cup hero (and fellow Bathonian) Anya Shrubsole leads a fierce bowling attack, with Lauren Bell and Charlotte Taylor both able to pick up wickets regularly. Smriti Mandhana and Danni Wyatt have been in fine form during India’s recent tour of England and complement Taylor perfectly, and if Sophia Dunkley can continue her domestic form then this is a group of batters that could easily dispatch any bowling unit.
Even the Brave’s depth is strong, with Tara Norris providing a very useful left-arm option who has seen plenty of domestic success in the past couple of years. Clear favourites to win the tournament, a lot of pressure is surrounding this squad to perform.
It seems like when drawing up their squad Trent Rockets management had just one word in mind: all-rounder, with 11/15 of their squad being listed as so. The Nottingham side was hit hard by the delay of the tournament, losing Beth Langston and Mady Villiers to other teams, then Elyse Villani and Sophie Molineux pulling out due to pandemic concerns.
As a result, the Rockets are left reliant on their England stars, which isn’t the worst consolation prize. World number one T20I all-rounder Nat Sciver is a perfect talisman to build around. Seamer Katherine Brunt and leg spinner Sarah Glenn can both tie up an end, and Australian replacement Heather Graham has been in excellent domestic form with the bat. New Zealand veteran Rachel Priest could establish herself as a fan favourite, particularly with her talent behind the stumps.
Aside from Teresa Graves, the rest of the Rockets’ depth could struggle if Brunt and Sciver aren’t dominating. Those stars could still help cause an upset or two, however, and so shouldn’t be counted out.
Alongside the Rockets the Cardiff-based team have also been depleted by the pandemic. The losses of Jess Jonassen, Meg Lanning and Beth Mooney leave large gaps in both the bowling and batting departments. However, their replacements could still be exciting, with Piepa Cleary and Hayley Matthews solid all-round options, and keeper Georgia Redmayne in incredible recent form, averaging nearly 240 across her last 5 innings.
The loss of key stars doesn’t take away from the true draw of this side: the return of Sarah Taylor, undoubtedly England’s best keeper this century. Already finding her groove behind the stumps for the Diamonds in the Charlotte Edwards Trophy, the Hundred will provide an incredible opportunity for some fantastic glovework to appear on our screens.
Although lacking in big-name stars elsewhere, the Fire have plenty of domestic talent ready to break through. Sophie Luff and Georgia Hennessy have both shown themselves to be capable of building big innings, albeit in the longer limited-overs format, and Bethan Ellis has shown flashes with bat and ball.
It might just be my excitement to watch Sarah Taylor but this side looks poised to make some serious waves and cause a few upsets over the course of the tournament, and could sneak in to the final three.
Five Must-Watch Games:
- Invincibles vs Originals – 21st July – first game and a South African showdown
- Spirit vs Rockets – 29th July – contest between England’s stars at Lord’s
- Originals vs Brave – 5th August – two top teams squaring off
- Invincibles vs Spirit – 14th August – Battle for London with playoff implications
- Superchargers vs Phoenix – 17th August – a potential run-fest
(A full list of fixtures can be found here.)
Pre-tournament, will soon be proven wrong predictions:
Winners: Southern Brave – bowling, batting, everything – where is this team’s weak spot?
Final Three: Southern Brave, London Spirit, Manchester Originals
Player of the Tournament: Sophie Ecclestone
International Star: Stafanie Taylor
Surprise Star: Charlotte Taylor
Worst team name: Manchester – When the Manchester Bees was floated as a potential team name anything else is a let-down
Best/Worst Kit: Birmingham – I’ve been sat here for an hour trying to come up with a reason for why I like this jersey but have managed nothing. I still have strongly considered getting one.