The controversial new tournament in English cricket returns for its second season on Wednesday when The Hundred is back, potentially offering a bigger and better campaign with the issues related to Covid that hampered the inaugural term a year ago.
Despite all those issues the Southern Brave triumphed to be the first champions of the new competition and they will be looking to put up a successful defence of their title but the other teams have strengthened so this promises to be a tougher campaign for the Ageas Bowl outfit.
2021 – Southern Brave
This is completely different to the three formats of the game that we know and love. The eight teams go into a round robin league in the first phase with each team playing the other seven once home or away. Each team plays its rival team home and away to create eight league matches per team. At the end of the league phase the top team heads straight into the final and the next two teams play the eliminator to meet them there. The final takes place at Lord’s on September 3. The tournament will be shown in full on Sky with plenty of live matches on BBC too.
The quirky part of the format is in the matches themselves when the headline changes are:
- 100 balls per innings
- A change of ends after 10 balls
- Bowlers deliver either five or 10 consecutive balls
- Each bowler can deliver a maximum of 20 balls per game
- Each bowling side gets a strategic time-out of up to two and a half minutes
- A 25-ball powerplay start for each team
- Two fielders are allowed outside the initial 30-yard circle during the powerplay
- Teams will be able to call time-outs, as has been the case in the IPL since 2009
The defending champions Southern Brave are the 10/3 favourites to retain their crown this season. After losing their opening two matches last term they never looked back and the addition of top class youngster Rehan Ahmed might only make them stronger but once again there is no Jofra Archer and the form and fitness of Tymal Mills is something of a concern. Last year the bowlers won the Brave the tournament. You get the feeling if they repeat their heroics this season it will be their batting that has done the job.
The Birmingham Phoenix were the team that the Southern Brave beat in the final last term and they are 11/2 to go one better this season. This is a side who won a lot of matches but putting the opponents to the sword with the bat in hand. Whether they are going to be able to do that on what will be extremely dry Edgbaston wickets after the ground hosted the Commonwealth Games remains to be seen. It isn’t like they are loaded with a plethora of top class spinners to take advantage either. Adam Milne was superb for the Phoenix last season but there are injury concerns around him which is less than ideal.
Oval Invincibles were well fancied prior to the opening competition but never really looked like landing a blow. They are 13/2 to make up for that this season. The additions of Rilee Rossouw and Mohammad Hasnain should make for a more exciting brand of cricket but the fact they initially released Sunil Narine before reclaiming his services suggests they don’t quite have a grasp of what they want from their squad in this competition. They’re not for me.
The Trent Rockets are also 13/2 to win the tournament. They were beaten in the semi-final last season and will be determined to go a couple of steps better this time around. They are largely built from a Nottinghamshire foundation though and their Blast campaign was terrible when it mattered so that is very much a concern. They do have some star talent at their disposal but Rashid Khan only playing half of the tournament would be another issue they need to deal with.
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The Manchester Originals never really got going last season. You sensed much of that was down to losing Jos Buttler to the Test side halfway through the competition but there are no fears of that happening this time around. He might also have a point to prove after a difficult time as the England white ball captain. Andre Russell and Wanindu Hasaranga are appealing overseas options and with good English players such as Phil Salt and Matt Parkinson the Originals look the big improvers.
The Welsh Fire are 8/1 to win the tournament but they were dealt a huge blow on the eve of the event when Jonny Bairstow pulled out to prepare for the Test series with South Africa. He would only have played half of the matches anyway but they only won one of five outings without him last season so his absence will be key. The likes of Ollie Pope, David Miller, Tom Banton, Naseem Shah and George Scrimshaw are all exciting players while Adam Zampa and Noor Ahmad are quality spinners so there is still enough to like about the Fire but there is no hiding away from Bairstow being a big loss.
London Spirit were terrible in the inaugural campaign but a lot of that was down to the players they were missing as much as anything else as their overseas players didn’t arrive because of Covid. They do have the likes of Glenn Maxwell with them this season and being useless last term means they were able to have the first pick in the draft, which they used to sign Kieron Pollard so their firepower is there for all to see. The later addition of Nathan Ellis looks a masterstroke after the Blast season he had. They’ll be better but whether they are good enough to push for the top three remains to be seen.
The Northern Superchargers are also 8/1 to win the title. They have an experienced squad so the first question would be whether they are over the hill or still able to deliver the goods. The likes of Dwayne Bravo and Wahab Riaz have been around for ages but whether they are now fading is a big question. In the early part of the season they will be boosted by the appearance of Harry Brook and Matthew Potts but both are likely to be disrupted by England duty in the second half of the campaign. Ben Stokes won’t be featuring at all which isn’t ideal.
The Southern Brave were the team to beat last season and probably are again this time around too but there is more of a doubt over their bowling attack this season with Tymal Mills and George Garton hardly impressing at the Vitality Blast and Liam Dawson and Danny Briggs now with the London Spirit. Birmingham Phoenix went well last season but the tired pitches they’ll be playing on and the potential absence of Adam Milne go against them while I don’t really see where the Trent Rockets have improved and only having Rashid Khan for half of the season isn’t helpful.
Of the rest I think the biggest improvers will be the Manchester Originals. They were always going to improve anyway with Jos Buttler around for the full season but the additions of Andre Russell and Wanindu Hasaranga are more than appealing additions. Richard Gleeson and Matt Parkinson are either in the England T20 setup or on the fringes of it while Phil Salt, Laurie Evans and Tom Lammonby have the potential to sizzle on the big stage. Two of their most expensive bowlers from last season have left and the replacements look economical and threatening. I expect a big campaign from the Originals.
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