The Hundred so far: England’s Next Gen, the Australian Effect and Boundary Sizes
Jay analyses the biggest stories from Week One of the The Hundred Women's Competition. And yes, he's got some stats!
When you combine The Hundred with greater professionalism and an increase in regional retainer contracts, the competition has been a game-changer for women’s cricket.
Approximately 267,000 people attended last year’s women’s fixtures. This averages out to around 8000 per game. 17,116 people packed in at Lords to witness The Oval Invincibles lift the trophy.
This season, the growing profile of English women’s cricket has continued apace. As reported by ESPN Cricinfo’s Matt Roller, The Birmingham Phoenix’s opening fixture on Monday against the Trent Rockets drew a crowd of 9,859. This was significant as it was a weekday and because the fixture took place outside of London and did not involve a London-based team.
In a small step towards gender parity, the highest-paid women will this year earn a salary of £31,250, which is marginally more than the lowest-paid male players at £30,000.
I swear this introduction was supposed to be shorter…
Despite being a mere week into the second season of The Hundred, there have already been so many talking points. Here are five of the biggest stories from the competition thus far.
In season one, there were two totals of 150 plus in 32 matches where a result was possible.
This year, in just 10 matches, there have already been five totals of 150 plus.
The two highest run chases in the history of the competition came in the first two matches of this season.
Part of this might be due to female athletes getting stronger with greater professionalization and better high performance systems in place across the world.
But this is also because of unnecessarily small boundaries. London Spirit’s Dani Gibson voiced her concerns about this on social media after the Spirit played the Northern Superchargers at Headingley.
‘The women’s game has developed so much since the KSL years and bigger boundaries makes it such a better contest between fielders and batters. It was either 4 or 1s today,’ she posted.
It’s hard to disagree with Gibson. In a ‘4 or 1’ game, you don’t get to watch a batter manipulating the field and running hard. Small boundaries can also relegate the role of a boundary fielder to that of a ball girl or ball boy. You’re unlikely to see those signature ‘thrown back in’ catches.
If tournament organizers do want to see more boundaries in the women’s competition, they need to trust the process. With a greater number of female cricketers being able to pursue the game as a full time career, you will see more and more batters getting stronger and hitting the ball over the ropes as the seasons roll by.
Until then, there is no need to view the women’s game through the lens of the men’s game. There is nothing wrong or boring about a total of 125 that includes “only’ one or two maximums. I’d much rather watch that than an innings of 150, where mishit aerial shots only need to travel 52 meters to clear a disinterested fielder.
Uncapped players and England’s fringe
Sophia Smale may be an injury replacement for Oval Invincibles, but it certainly looks like she belongs at this level.
The left-arm spinner has been frugal with the new ball and was wisely held back against the Southern Brave when left-handed Smriti Mandhana was opening the batting. In that game, she finished with figures of 2 for 12 in her 20 balls, including the wickets of Danni Wyatt and Tahlia McGrath. Smale has arguably been her team’s best bowler along with fellow uncapped bowler Eva Gray.
Against the Trent Rockets, Birmingham Phoenix’s Em Arlott picked up 3 for 19 and proved why she is arguably the most exciting uncapped seamer in England. She had Marie Kelly and Alana King caught off dipping slower balls before cramping Nat Sciver with a back of a length delivery into her body, which she could only manage to lob to backward point.
Bess Heath’s 57 off 34 against the London Spirit led the way for uncapped batters. Her innings was only the fourth half-century for an uncapped English batter in the history of the competition and the third-highest overall.
She was severe on anything short and showed great intent while manipulating the off side field with a series of reverse sweeps off the spinners. What made her innings even more special was that the Superchargers lost openers Alyssa Healy and Jemimah Rodrigues early and that Laura Wolvaardt was also struggling to find her timing at the other end.
Sophie Luff deserves a mention for a spirited knock of 39* (30) in the second innings of the same game, which nearly stole a win for the Spirit.
A day earlier, Abbey Freeborn top-scored for the Rockets with an unbeaten 45 off 38, where she was great at moving across her crease to access mid wicket whenever the Originals bowled too short. The highlight of her innings, however, was her exhibition of scoops and paddles down to the fine leg boundary off both spinners and seamers alike.
I have to say, after such a high-impact innings, it was surprising to see her batting at eight in the Rockets’ loss to the Invincibles.
‘Hey! Remember me?’
With Sophia Dunkley faltering in the opening position during the Commonwealth Games, Tammy Beaumont has a chance to make a comeback into England’s T20 plans. Having said that, she struggled in the second half of her unbeaten 45 off 42 against the Originals in a game where more than 300 runs were scored. While it is too early to write off one of England’s finest ever batters, she will have to score quick runs to force her way back into the team.
Beaumont might fall further behind in the pecking order if Lauren Winfield-Hill can string together a few more match-defining innings. Until recently, Winfield-Hill was probably given too much of a rope in ODI cricket. She hasn’t scored a single half-century in her last 31 ODI innings, so it’s hard to see a way back for her in 50-over cricket.
To her credit, she’s shaken off the rust from a poor first season, where her only half-century came in the Supercharger’s last game against the Phoenix. After moving to the Invincibles for this season, she found her feet straightaway, striking 74* (42) to help her team chase down a target of 144 against the Superchargers on the opening night of the women’s competition.
Winfield-Hill has not played a T20I for England since the 2020 T20 World Cup. She hasn’t opened the batting since July 2016 in spite of most of her success, and all three of her half-centuries in the format, coming in that position. If she can notch up a few more healthy scores in the next two weeks, there’s every chance she’ll be back up top for England.
Overseas combinations and the ‘Australian Effect’
Beth Mooney struck the highest score in the history of the women’s competition on her Hundred debut.
Alana King was the first bowler to take a hat-trick in the women’s competition.
King was also the first bowler, woman or man, to bowl ten dots in two consecutive sets of five.
Amanda Jade-Wellington is the top wicket-taker in the history of the tournament with 21 scalps to her name. She has also taken 3 or more wickets on four occasions since the inception of the competition, which ties her with fellow Australian Sammy-Jo Johnson.
Ellyse Perry’s elegant drives through the off side have complimented her footwork. In both of her first two innings, she has turned deliveries from spinners into full tosses, thumping them down the ground. She has also charged at slower bowlers, taking deliveries on the half volley and slog sweeping them into the leg side. It remains to be seen whether she can force her way back into Australia’s T20I eleven.
Butt this is vintage Ellyse Perry and it’s great to watch the GOAT in form.
The availability of Australia’s finest cricketers for this season has undoubtedly improved the quality of cricket on show.
However, with only three overseas players allowed in each playing eleven, there has been some debate over overseas combinations.
Dane van Niekerk sitting out of the Invincibles XI has been the most contentious selection of the tournament thus far. In addition to being last year’s Player-of-the-tournaments and the top run-scorer, she also led her team to the trophy. Dane van Niekerk was the heartbeat of the Invincibles.
I don’t think it’s wise to break up the successful Bates-Winfield-Hill opening duo. Marizanne Kapp is also the first name on their team sheet, which means that the last overseas slot is a toss-up between van Niekerk and Shabnim Ismail. The fact that I’m sitting here and making a case of Shabnim Ismail to be dropped just shows you how strong this Oval unit is.
Commentary and more primetime slots
Bree-ownee Smith and Elyse Vill-ownee…
I wish there was a way to insert a face palm emoji on the substack editor.
In all seriousness, many of the male commentators — Nasser Hussain being a notable exception — have been woefully underqualified to call games during the women’s competition. There is no shortage of commentators who are knowledgeable about women’s cricket, so the broadcasters and tournament organizers have no excuse for making us endure a substandard telecast.
Another thing I’d like to see is for the women’s competition to get more primetime slots. Not only is this fair, but it’s also just good business. If organizers and broadcasters want to know the full potential of the Women’s Competition, they need to give it the best chance to thrive.
Primetime slots and commentators who care would be a good start.
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