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Crisp new Hundred has a ‘build it and they will come’ flavour

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“Build it and they will come.” So goes the Field of Dreams mentality that seems to be underpinning the ECB’s bold gamble with the Hundred, which still sounds like a dystopian futurescape survivalist gameshow – and to those tweeting with the #OpposeTheHundred hashtag on Sunday evening, that is exactly what this thin-edge-of-the-wedge exercise in marginalising the county game is.

Nevertheless, the scaffolding is in place and an army of eager hands are scurrying about their business – nowhere more obviously than at Sky’s studios in west London, where a bespoke set had been constructed for the televisual extravaganza that was the Hundred draft. A black runway stencilled with neon runes and flanked by eight brightly lit plinths at which the decision-makers sat hunched over their touchscreens, picking and choosing their way through seven increasingly slick rounds of squad building.

This was all an event in itself, some nine months ahead of cricket’s newest format being launched in the English summer of 2020. Sky threw open the doors – after a certain amount of security vetting – to the great and the not-so-good of the UK cricket media, as well as the “influencers” whom it is hoped will bring access to a brand-new fan base. Nothing says “we are taking this seriously” like asking in advance for journalists’ dietary requirements (which are normally limited to “anything we can scoff”).

Speaking of scoff, there were the obligatory offerings from the competition’s snack-giant sponsor; appropriate, given the whole concept of the Hundred is product placement on a grand scale.

Also read: Hundred boosts England’s bid to retain World Cup – Root

Does the public want the product? That question won’t have an answer for a while yet, but we are now firmly on the route march to 100-ball cricket. Ever since the surprise/botched – delete according to prejudice – announcement in April 2018 of the ECB’s wheeze to grow the game, momentum has been slowly gathering. From promoted content lurking in social media feeds to being discussed on BBC Radio 4’s Women’s Hour, as it was last week, the Hundred is coalescing before our eyes.

“May you live in interesting times,” as the apocryphal Chinese curse has it. And there was undoubtedly plenty of interest in what amounted to a path-breaking moment – the first player draft ever to be held in UK sport. It may not have had the decadence of the IPL auction (the top price bracket for a contract was a mere £125,000) or the sheer grandiosity of the NFL draft, which Sky had sent presenter Ian Ward to observe in order to pick up tips, but it had a certain heft and zing of its own as the eight newly minted teams came together.

Not that there weren’t some issues during the somewhat frenetic opening rounds. Trent Rockets, who had drawn the right to first pick, took around 15 of the allotted 100 seconds to confirm their preference for Rashid Khan – and then they were off, a domino effect of causality as each team’s management, usually including an analyst or data guru, scanned the ever-diminishing list of options and those on the Sky sofas struggled to come up with incisive commentary – mostly consisting of “So who should these guys pick?” “Would you have picked him?” and “That’s a good pick” on sugar-buzzed repeat.

The fact that some of the slots – each team had two picks at seven different price bands, from £125,000 down to £30,000 – had already been filled by the ‘local icons’, selected behind closed doors earlier this month, contributed to the confusion. As the camera skipped quickly from Manchester Originals to London Spirit to Birmingham Phoenix, then suddenly back to Simon Katch’s Originals (because Spirit and Phoenix had previously signed up Eoin Morgan and Moeen Ali), it became a struggle to keep up.

It was at this point the Manchester hierarchy slipped in what was probably the most astonishing selection of the night, taking Lancashire captain (and Kolpak qualified “local”) Dane Vilas for £125,000 despite his not having set a reserve price. But no time to discuss that because Steve Smith! Mujeeb Ur Rahman! David Warner! D’Arcy Short! On we go!

To be fair, after two or three rounds of flustered scribbling on the helpfully provided draft grid, things began to settle down into an understandable rhythm, with interviews and analysis – rather than hypothetical musing – interspersing the “action” in the main studio. Though how many of the casual audience, who could also follow online via the BBC, the competition’s other broadcast partner, will have stuck with it for the long haul remains unknown.

By the end of the process, when Luke Wright became the 96th player to be given a Hundred handshake, you could argue that things had gone pretty well. There were no technical glitches or hold-ups, the teams professed to being happy with their selections (and it was hard to argue with the concentration of talent in each list), and all of the players present were on message – albeit Sky had only invited in those certain of deals. Beyond a certain amount of carping at the number of Kolpaks winning “domestic” spots or the lack of any Leicestershire player being picked, the most difficult moments came for the camera operators trying to avoid catching Sam Billings or Jofra Archer eating their dinner while filming segments in the canteen.

There was even room for an announcement of marquee players for the women’s competition – though given the ECB has made a big thing of the Hundred putting male and female players on the same pedestal, this was an occasion heavily orientated towards the men’s game (and that is without touching on the issue of pay).

Perhaps most importantly, this felt like a recognisably “cricket” happening – bubbling along with enthusiastic discussion about squad balance and tactical options. And who would begrudge the likes of Max Waller or Benny Howell the opportunity to become household names? For a few brief hours it was easy to forget about the whole 100-balls lark, as if this, finally, were the star-studded launch of England’s first T20 franchise league. Now there’s an idea.

After the World Cup and Ashes summer just gone – reminders of which were regularly on show – it remains a nagging doubt that a fourth format will merely serve to complicate matters further. And on a day that began with emotional sporting scenes in Japan, as rugby union made great global strides with its own expansionist tournament, while in the UAE the T20 World Cup Qualifier continued to offer cricket a path for growth, it seems instructive that the ECB is spending millions of pounds simply to drum up interest in its own territory.

But here we are, on the road to the promised land – or, at least, the highly leveraged land. In these divided times, whether the Hundred turns out to be a field of dreams or a waking nightmare may simply depend on your point of view.



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Baroda hold off Delhi by one run, while TN beat Mumbai

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Baroda and Karnataka surged to the top of the Super League groups A and B, winning their Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy matches on Friday. While Baroda held off Delhi by a solitary run, Karnataka beat Jharkhand by 13 runs in a game they looked like they would win at a canter at one stage. The victories gave them both eight points each from two matches.

Rajasthan and Jharkhand, who have both had a close defeat each in high-scoring games, now find themselves with two defeats in as many Super League games, making a spot in the semi-finals difficult.

Like on Thursday, there were IPL scouts from at least four franchises in attendance for the matches, making performances in the Super League particularly crucial given the IPL auction that is scheduled for December 19.

Baroda v Delhi

A combined effort by the Delhi bowlers kept Baroda to 151 for 6. However, Delhi’s chase stuttered and finished on 150 for 9. Babashafi Pathan, the right-arm medium-pacer, took 3 for 24 for Baroda, while Kunwar Bidhuri fought a lone battle for Delhi.

Bhiduri, handed a game due to Shikhar Dhawan’s injury, had a sparkling T20 debut, hitting 68 off 51 balls at the top of the order. However, he lacked support from the rest of the Delhi batsmen. He was ninth out at the start of the 20th over. Delhi needed 19 to win from the remaining five balls and though Suboth Bhati swung his bat during an unbeaten 20 off 8 balls, Delhi could make only 17 runs.

Baroda didn’t have any batsman making a standout innings, though Aditya Waghmode continued his good form, top-scoring with 36 off 31 while opening. Only Deepak Hooda (26 off 19) among the other batsmen crossed 20, though useful contributions right through meant Baroda got to a competitive – and eventually winning – total.

Tamil Nadu v Mumbai

Tamil Nadu put behind a comprehensive defeat to Karnataka to hand the other tournament favourites – Mumbai – a resounding loss, by seven wickets with 6.1 overs to spare. Left-arm spinner Shams Mulani had a remarkable day, but the rest of the Mumbai team crumbled.

Tamil Nadu’s bowlers ensured Mumbai could get only 121 for 9, despite Mulani hitting 73 off 52 after being promoted to No. 4. R Sai Kishore continued his good run with figures of 3 for 18 in four overs, while M Siddharth took 4 for 16. Prithvi Shaw made 30 off 19 at the top of the order, but no other Mumbai player got into double-figures.

Tamil Nadu sent in Shahrukh Khan to partner Hari Nishanth at the top of the order, and the duo gave the team a rapid start. Shahrukh fell in the fourth over, bowled by Mulani, with B Aparajith following him back two balls later. However, Nishanth, who didn’t have a good outing against Karnataka, came to the fore in style, smashing 73* off 44 balls.

Mulani took all three wickets to fall – Dinesh Karthik being the third – to complete a fabulous all-round day with figures of 3 for 26 in four overs, but Vijay Shankar ensured he stayed alongside Nishanth as victory was raised in just 13.5 overs.

Karnataka v Jharkhand

Put in to bat, Karnataka rocketed off the blocks, before losing their way in the second half of their innings. Their fantastic start nonetheless ensured a sizeable 189 for 6 on the board, and though Jharkhand fought gamely, the required rate was always a touch above what they looked like achieving, eventually finishing on 176 for 5.

Karnataka’s start was driven by Devdutt Padikkal – in many ways the batsman of the tournament so far – who raced to 63 off 30 balls in an opening stand that brought 114 in 9.3 overs. His opening partner KL Rahul was more sedate in comparison, while Manish Pandey came in and picked up where Padikkal had left off. However, both men fell shortly thereafter, though at 130 for 3 in 11 overs, Karnataka were still looking at a total well in excess of 200. However, with their three main batsmen gone, the rest of the line-up struggled and could only score at around a run a ball thereon. Left-arm spinner Sonu Singh did most of the damage, with 3 for 28 in four overs. He took out both Rahul and Pandey, and added the wicket of Karun Nair too.

Jharkhand’s reply was driven by Virat Singh‘s 76* off 44 from No.3, but the batsmen around him couldn’t keep up with the required rate. They needed 87 runs in the last six overs, which is when Virat and Sumit Kumar (23 off 16) cut loose, but though they scored at more than two runs per ball, the eventual target proved too steep.

Haryana v Rajasthan

Tight bowling by Haryana gave them a four-wicket victory over Rajasthan with 4.4 overs remaining, with Harshal Patel putting in an all-round show once again.

Harshal, who has been opening the batting in this tournament, first took 1 for 19 in his four overs as Rajasthan were restricted to 123 for 8. Ankit Lamba top-scored with 38, but took 41 balls, and only Chandrapal Singh (25* off 14) crossed 20 among other batsmen. Rahul Tewatia, recently traded from Delhi Capitals to Rajasthan Royals, was the most successful bowler, with 3 for 18 in four overs.

Interestingly, Haryana opened with two leggies in Yuzvendra Chahal and Amit Mishra, while Tewatia – another leggie – was the first change bowler.

Harshal led Haryana’s reply, smacking 41 off 25 at the top of the order to be the highest score of the match. Haryana didn’t have too many others contributing, but given the small target, they didn’t need to.



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Recent Match Report – Paarl Rocks vs Jozi Stars, Mzansi Super League, 13th Match

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Jozi Stars’ title defence hopes are hanging by a thread after losing a fifth successive match in the Mzansi Super League (MSL). Although mathematically it is still possible for them to make the playoffs, they will need more than just their own results to go their way. Despite shuffling their batting line-up, the Stars did not manage to score enough runs and their 129 for 3 was never going to be enough against a strong Paarl Rocks side. James Vince picked up from his undefeated 86 against the Spartans last Sunday, scoring 43 to ensure the Rocks successfully chased down their target inside 17 overs. They move to third on the table, four points behind leaders, the Nelson Mandela Bay Giants.

Will Chris Gayle play his 400th T20 in South Africa?

In his 399th T20 game, Chris Gayle was dropped down the order to No.3 after a poor start, with 46 runs in five innings so far. At first, the move seemed successful. Ryan Rickelton and Reeza Hendricks opened the Stars’ innings with a strong stand of 64 in 9.4 overs before Rickelton was dismissed for 40. That brought Gayle to the crease with enough of a foundation to get going immediately. But Gayle only managed a single before he was struck on the pad by Hardus Viljoen and given out. Replays showed the ball had pitched outside leg but with no DRS, Gayle would not have even been able to review. He is now in danger of leaving the tournament without making much of an impression or completing a personal milestone. Gayle is available for one more match in this tournament when the Stars play the Tshwane Spartans on Sunday. If he plays, it will be his 400th, but the Stars have already hinted they made need to make significant changes to their side.

Magic tricks

Tabraiz Shamsi has packed his phone away for this season and is now showing off his skills as a magician in the making. Shamsi keeps a handkerchief in his pocket which turns into a wand, and when he takes a wicket, he brings it out in celebration. The contraption made its first appearance in this edition of the MSL when he had Hendricks caught at long-off. None of Shamsi’s team-mates went too close to him when the catch was taken, perhaps knowing he needed some space, and allowed the Paarl crowd to see their very own Harry Potter at work.

KG on the comeback trail

Kagiso Rabada has not looked his usual sprightly self since the tour of India, until his first ball at Boland Park. It wasn’t the first ball of the innings, as it might ordinarily have been. Rabada was used as first-change after Gayle was given the new ball, and he quickly showed what he is capable of. He fired in a full delivery outside off, and Henry Davids, who was caught on the back foot trying to cut, inside-edged onto leg-stump, which went cartwheeling away. Rabada returned in the 15th over, with the cause all but lost and managed to have something of a last say when he caught Mangaliso Mosehle off his own bowling. A lengthy check for a no-ball showed that Rabada was just on the line and Mosehle had to go. Rabada could have had a third off the next ball but Gayle dropped an Isuru Udana skier at point.

Olivier’s over

The match was tensely poised with the Paarl Rocks on 64 for 4 halfway through their chase, still needing 66 runs off the final 10 overs when Duanne Olivier released the pressure with an over that cost 15. Vince was the beneficiary of Olivier’s misdirected line down leg and the vacant third man area, where he sent three, successive boundaries. The required run-rate dipped under six an over after that, and dipped to four when Simon Harmer’s second over cost 17. There was no stopping the Rocks from there.



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Pant released for Syed Mushtaq Ali, Bharat called up as cover

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The Indian selection committee has decided to release Rishabh Pant from the Test squad in order to allow him to get some game-time ahead of India’s limited overs series against West Indies next month, according to a report from PTI.

Pant will link up with the Delhi squad that is currently playing in the Super League of the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy 2019-20. He will thus be available for Delhi’s next two Super League matches, against Haryana on November 24 and Rajasthan on November 27, and for the semi-finals and final if Delhi make it that far.

Meanwhile, the selectors have called up KS Bharat, the Andhra wicketkeeper, to join the Indian team as cover for Wriddhiman Saha for the remainder of the second Test in Kolkata. Andhra have not qualified for the Super League in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy.

“Rishabh will be playing all the six matches (3 T20Is and 3 ODIs) against the West Indies. The selectors thought it’s only prudent that he goes and plays in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy for Delhi,” Press Trust of India quoted a BCCI official as saying.

Bharat has been a regular with India A in the longer format for the past few seasons, though he has never broken into the senior team. He made his first-class debut in January 2013, and has so far played 69 games, scoring 3,909 runs at an average of 37.58. He has eight centuries and 20 half-centuries, which includes a highest of 308 against Goa in 2015.

“I played the first pink ball match in Lucknow when it was introduced in the Duleep Trophy in 2015,” Bharat told PTI as he was on his way to airport from his Visakhapatnam residence. “I got a call and was asked to join the team. I’m reaching at 8.30 tomorrow morning. I am looking forward to sharing the dressing room with my idol Virat bhai. Wriddhiman is one of the best wicketkeepers of the current era. I’m hoping to learnt a lot from them.”

There have already been two concussion substitutes in the ongoing Test, both for Bangladesh. In the match itself, India’s first day-night Test with a pink ball, the home side are firmly in control after the first day.



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