The Hundred may remain an unfamiliar format but the consensus at Sunday’s draft appeared to be that spin will be the way to win.
Next year’s debut edition of the England and Wales Cricket Board’s 100-ball tournament continued to take shape this weekend when the eight city-based franchises signed the bulk of their squads in a live televised event in London.
And slow bowlers were in demand as 21-year-old Afghanistan captain Rashid Khan was selected first overall while other regular spin options such as Sunil Narine, Imran Tahir, Mujeeb Ur Rehman, Moeen Ali, Glenn Maxwell and Liam Livingstone also picked up maximum £125,000 pay days.
“No one knows the format, no one understands the best way to win a 100-ball game,” said England all-rounder Sam Curran, whose Oval Invincibles team selected Narine with their first pick and added teenage Nepal leg-spinner Sandeep Lamichhane for £100,000.
“Once the teams are selected there’s going to be a lot of plans and tactics. No one knows how to play 100-ball cricket but so far it looks like they think spin is the one.”
While there maybe some quirks of the 100-ball game yet to be discovered, Curran – one of the England Test stars allocated prior to Sunday’s draft – said the best guide anyone could use to date was Twenty20.
“You look at the timing of the tournament, late in the summer, so the wickets are drier but generally in T20, it’s the spinners who win you a lot of games, in the middle overs they take a lot of wickets,” he said.
“All the spinners that have been picked are world class.”
Chris Gayle, Lasith Malinga and Dwayne Bravo all notably missed out on selection, but there was no doubting the quality of the players who were picked up, with six Australians – including Steve Smith and David Warner – among those going for the top-priced £125k.
It was the first time a draft format had been used in British sport, leading to a tense night for many.
“It was exciting to watch it,” said Ben Stokes, who like Curran could enjoy a relaxed night, having already been allocated to the Northern Superchargers.
“There were a couple of guys here, Sam Billings and Ravi Bopara, who didn’t know if they were going to get picked or not. Sam was hiding behind a pillar at one point!
“I knew who our first three were going to be, unless someone else picked them, and we got them.”
The ECB will hope the strength of the teams selected on Sunday will help build excitement and quell controversy over the format, and that was certainly the message being pushed.
“It’ll be interesting to see how it’s played over 100 balls, the subtle differences that will capture the imagination of a lot of people not just in England but globally as well,” said Invincibles coach Tom Moody.
“It’s all well and good to stand back and throw stones at it but it’s like when the Big Bash started in Australia years ago, people were more than happy to criticise a product but as soon as it started you couldn’t stop people charging through the gates.”
Curran highlighted the opportunity for the young English players selected lower in the draft to learn from their new superstar team-mates, while Joe Root believes the timing of the tournament can help England sharpen up for next October’s T20 World Cup.
“It’s a great time for it ahead of a T20 World Cup,” the England captain said.
“It will give a platform for our players to showcase themselves and go around the world, it will open doors and new relationships.
“It’s a great thing for the game. It’s taking shape nicely. It will also help players learn to deal with different pressures…having £100k on your back as you walk out to bat for a young player is really good.”