The India-England series might have brought the focus back to Test cricket but the entertainment value of “The Hundred” has continued to soar high. Be it Shafali Verma coming to the fore in her trademark style or Moeen Ali smashing spinners in the middle overs, the third week of the ECB’s new franchise competition provided a lot of stories to munch on.
(Note: All stats updated till August 10 unless otherwise mentioned)
Roller-coaster for Indian contingent
Indian batters in the Women’s Hundred competition have mixed bag success in the third week. While the likes of Jemimah Rodrigues and Shafali Verma excelled, Smriti Mandhana couldn’t get off the block at all, although on Wednesday, which marked the beginning of the fourth week, she was a treat to watch. On the other hand, Deepti Sharma continued her under-the-radar show to lift London Spirit’s sagging fortunes.
Despite all her talent, Shafali Verma’s bat remained silent in the first few matches but she really came into her own against Welsh Fire on Monday. Chasing the 128-run target given by the Sophie Luff-led franchise, Verma added 76 of her own at a strike rate of 180.95. So much so that Evelyn Jones’ 35-ball half-century almost became an afterthought.
Jemimah Rodrigues’ single failure against the Invincibles only lingered briefly as the Mumbaikar struck her third half-century of the tournament against London Spirit to ensure Northern Superchargers raced to the knockouts with effortless ease. She has built a sizable lead at the top of the highest run-scorers table with 241 runs in five matches at 60.25. Talk about consistency.
While Harmanpreet Kaur was not in action for the entire week, Mandhana's performance was initially a genuine concern for Southern Brave who are currently leading the table with five wins from six games. Only two double-digit scores in six games are indicative her plummeting stocks but then she would hope to salvage something the next week. However, on Wednesday, the Indian opener turned the table in some fashion, scoring a 52-ball 78 to single-handedly spearhead Southern Brave Women to a commanding win over Welsh Fire.
Deepti Sharma has slipped under the radar but played a crucial role for the London Spirit side last week. Her all-round performance on Tuesday against Manchester Originals helped the London-based side keep their hopes for the playoffs berth alive. As the Hundred enters the penultimate week, we might see more crucial performances from all.
Spinners outperformed pacers
In the Men’s Hundred matches between August 3 to August 10, spinners averaged 21.6 as compared to the pacers' 25.1. The corresponding pace vs spin number for the Women’s Hundred was 28.9 to 26.3. That paints a picture of the spinners' impact in the last week’s competition, indicating the tired nature of the wicket. Delving deeper, the economy rate of each five-ball and 10-ball cluster tells a story. In the Men’s event, spinners have conceded 7.5 runs per five-ball cluster as compared to 8 runs by the pacers.
Spinners lead the battle by 0.4 runs in the 10-ball clusters as well. Is the same pattern repeated in the Women’s Hundred as well? Certainly. Spinners are far more economical than pacers and the contrast for a 10-ball cluster marks it openly. The difference between pace and spin is as big as 2.8. You know the deal now, don’t you?
Mills - a like-to-like replacement for Archer?
Tymal Mills had become almost an afterthought after his sudden drop in stock due to his dismal performances for Royal Challengers Bangalore in 2017. He has been in and out of the cricket scene with regular injuries but this summer has changed the dynamics for good. It might as well mean he can now probably add numbers to his five English caps.
Jofra Archer being ruled out of the entire 2021 means England have their major powerplay enforcer absent from their ranks but their agony can end with Mills’ The Hundred performances. After taking 11 wickets for Sussex in 9 Vitality Blast games, Mills was economical - 6.97 per cluster - to go with four wickets for Southern Brave. 36.8% of his deliveries were above 140+ plus speed and he only bowled 17 deliveries at a lesser speed than 130 kph.
Smeed’s prodigious talent
Birmingham Phoenix’s Will Smeed is just 19 years old. However, his precious talent is too good to ignore, with scores of 65*, 45, 36, and 39 in his last four Hundred games providing a picture of his consistency. Despite being the youngest player in the men's Hundred, Smeed has a kind of raw power that belies his cherubic face.
Smeed’s success has also added a dimension to Birmingham Phoenix, who are now placed at the second position on the Men’s Hundred points table. With Finn Allen partnering him at the top, they have a successful pair which, last week, gave senior partners Moeen Ali and Liam Livingstone enough runs to cash in on in the middle and death overs. After Ali was called up for the Lord’s Test against India, the Somerset batter will have a bigger role to play as the knockout stages come calling.