Spirit take their spot as the London team north of the river, holding the illustrious cricketing residence of Lord’s as their home.
So little is known about how this new format will unfold and what talents will give sides an edge, but something that will always take you deep in these tournaments is strong leadership, and boy do the Spirit have that.
England white-ball captain Eoin Morgan will lead the men’s side, whilst all-format England captain Heather Knight will lead the women. Both sides also boast some serious international-level talent and one would think, if the tactical plan off the field is constructed effectively, both sides could go deep in the competition.
With the ECB’s mission statement clearly calling for The Hundred to bring cricket to a new audience, the Spirit might have the steepest hill to climb. Lord’s is steeped in history and therefore also entrenched in the issues of elitism the tournament has been purpose-built to address.
Moreover, with fans permitted to bring their own alcohol into the ground, the same boozy atmospheres that might have previously dissuaded families from attending the previous UK based white-ball tournaments might crop up once again.
As touched on, both squads boast a nice mix of home-grown and overseas talent.
The women have the power of West Indian star Deandra Dottin (still the holder of the record for the fastest century in women’s T20Is), the all-round skills of both Deepti Sharma (one of only five Indian players in The Hundred) and South African Chloe Tryon. Combined with the extravagance of Tammy Beaumont, the calm head of Heather Knight, and the wicket-taking ability of Freya Davies, they will be a force to be reckoned with if enough of their stars can perform in the same matches.
COVID has impacted all squads to some degree, with a host of overseas talent having to pull out before a ball was bowled, but you would argue that Spirit got off quite lightly.
The women’s side was unaffected by the exodus and, even though the men’s side lost their number one pick in Glenn Maxwell, replacement Josh Inglis could yet be a star, boasting an impressive record in recent years in Australia’s ‘Big Bash’. Moreover, both Mohammad Amir and Mohammad Nabi have impressive records in white-ball cricket and will most definitely influence games with both bat and ball.
The men picked up veteran Ravi Bopara and exciting Middlesex bowler Blake Cullen in 2021 and the only real disappointment for them will be the reduced availability of Mark Wood. They would have hoped to have kept the fast-bowler for the duration of the tournament, but he has been called up to the Test side and thus the scale of his playing time, much like that of Zak Crawley and Dan Lawrence, is as yet unknown.
The Spirit and England skipper has had a rough year with the bat in hand but his experience will undoubtedly allow him to adapt to the tactical nuances of the new format. He has some raw bowling talent in his hands and if the London side is to have any success he will need to make the most of them. You would also back the veteran to find some form with the bat as he looks to play himself in ahead of a T20 World Cup.
Not much needs to be written about Tammy Beaumont; she is a gun. Toting all the shots a batter could ever want, she plies her trade at the top of the order, making the most of the powerplay and going big on the scorecard. If recent form is anything to go by, expect her to consistently find a way to get past the 50 mark.
A double-header against London Spirit at Edgbaston is the first challenge for Birmingham Phoenix.
Women: Birmingham Phoenix v London Spirit, Friday 23 July, 3pm, Edgbaston Stadium
Men: Birmingham Phoenix v London Spirit, Friday 23 July, 6:30pm, Edgbaston Stadium
According to Sky Bet, London Spirit are outsiders to win the tournament, priced at 8/1.