We are coming to the part of the season that stirs up a variety of emotions – the period occupied by the Royal London 50-over competition and The Hundred. One way of looking at it is that we have twice as much cricket. The Royal London Cup, while relegated in status, does allow counties to take matches to outgrounds and all of the games are covered by the excellent, free to view, county streaming services, alongside BBC commentary. So hopefully, plenty to look forward to.
The bookies’ favourites (SkyBet) at present are Lancashire, Yorkshire and Somerset, who each reached finals day of the Blast, but as with all the sides, a key factor will be how many of their players they lose to the other competition.
In the Hundred: Phil Salt, Jos Buttler, Richard Gleeson, Matt Parkinson, Tom Hartley, Liam Livingstone, Tim David, Saqib Mahmood, Luke Wood
Lancashire are having a successful season and while they are losing some talented players, they are perhaps not as hard hit as others and should be able to mount a strong challenge. They retain the services of their overseas players, Dane Vilas and Washington Sundar and with the likes of Keaton Jennings and Luke Wells at the top of the order, they should not be short of runs. Their bowling resources will be tested and will rely heavily on Tom Bailey to lead the seam attack
In the Hundred: Jordan Thompson, Jonny Bairstow, Dawid Malan, Joe Root, Tom Kohler-Cadmore, Adam Lyth, Harry Brook, David Willey, Adil Rashid, Matthew Fisher
Yorkshire have a significant number of absences, but given that most of these players are not regularly available, they should be able to fill the gaps. Their top order batting is particularly affected, but Gary Ballance looks set to return to first team duties. He warmed up with 95 off just 25 balls in the game against Northumberland.
In the Hundred: Tom Lammonby, Roelof van der Merwe, Will Smeed, Tom Abell, Lewis Gregory, Marchant De Lange, Tom Banton, Rilee Rossouw, Craig Overton, Jack Leach
The fire power at the top of the order, that took Somerset to Blast finals day, has not surprisingly been snapped up by the Hundred. They will be looking to veterans James Hildreth and Steve Davies to marshal the batting while Peter Siddle and Ben Green will be leading the bowling attack. They will need to work hard to fulfil favourites status.
After these three first division sides, there are three Division Two teams to consider:
In the Hundred: Ben Duckett, Joe Clarke, Jake Ball, Alex Hales, Steven Mullaney, Samit Patel, Tom Moores, Luke Wood, Luke Fletcher, Matt Carter
Nottinghamshire are currently top of Division Two, but just missed out on qualification for the final stages of the Blast. While they are losing a number of key players, they should have the services of their two overseas bowlers, James Pattinson and Dane Paterson as well as talented young left-arm spinner, Liam Patterson-White. At the top of the order they have Ben Slater and Haseeb Hameed, who is having an excellent red ball season, but they will require some of their younger batters to step up.
In the Hundred: Michael Hogan
Glamorgan are the current holders and with just the one call up to the Hundred, should be fielding a stronger side than won last year. They have moved into second place in Division Two and finished strongly in this year’s Blast. They will have the services of Colin Ingram for the first part of the competition, but as well as Michael Hogan, Michael Neser will be absent, as he returns to Australia. They look capable of putting up a strong defence of their title, but while the batting looks very strong, with Sam Northeast coming off his record-breaking 410, the bowling is less of a threat. Medium pacer, Joe Cooke was the leading wicket taker in last year’s competition and he will be backed up by Timm van der Gugten and Dan Douthwaite, who were in the Hundred last year.
In the Hundred: Ollie Robinson, Luke Wright, Ravi Bopara, Tymal Mills, George Garton
Sussex are a young side in transition and have struggled to compete in either the Championship or the Blast. They will not be disrupted too much by absences and have talented young batters such as Tom Alsop and Ali Orr, alongside the experience of their overseas star, Cheteshwar Pujara, so scoring runs should not be a problem. However their bowling has been reliant on players brought in on loan deals and in the absence of Ollie Robinson they will be heavily reliant on spin.
Moving on to the rest of the field, there are some teams who may well do better than the odds predict:
In the Hundred: Chris Jordan, Dan Moriarty, Will Jacks, Rory Burns, Jason Roy, Sam Curran, Tom Curran, Reece Topley, Gus Atkinson, Jamie Smith, Ollie Pope, Laurie Evans, Jamie Overton, Jordan Clark
Strong as Surrey’s resources are, any team would be hard pressed to compete after losing quite this many of their first choice players, including a number who took them to the semi-finals of last year’s competition. They did not make a great start to the campaign, suffering a four wicket loss to Buckinghamshire, who got home with six overs to spare in their warm-up game. This was despite a century from Cameron Steel.
In the Hundred: James Vince, Ross Whitely, Joe Weatherley, Jake Lintott, Liam Dawson, Chris Wood, Mason Crane, Brad Wheal
Although the team that won this year’s Blast competition will be shorn of its top players, Hampshire should have enough in reserve to still be very competitive. Tom Prest scored 87 in their game against Dorset and with Nick Gubbins and Aneurin Donald at the top of the order they should score enough runs for the likes of Kyle Abbott and Keith Barker to work with. Hampshire must start as one of the fancied teams and could well add to their Blast success.
In the Hundred: Fred Klaassen, Zak Crawley, Daniel Bell-Drummond, Jordan Cox, Jack Leaning, Sam Billings, Matt Milnes
Kent have had a tough season so far with just two wins in the Championship and finishing bottom of the South Group in the Blast. They have lost a number of their batters to the Hundred and the bowling of Milnes and Klaassen, but will hope that club stalwarts Joe Denly and Darren Stevens can rally the remainder of their squad. They made a strong start in their warm-up game, posting 431/7 against Suffolk, with centuries from Ben Compton and Ollie Robinson. They have also been reinforced by the arrival of Joey Evison on loan from Nottinghamshire.
In the Hundred: Sam Cook, Matt Critchley, Dan Lawrence
Essex will be able to field a relatively full strength team and will certainly be a handful at Chelmsford. They can call upon the batting experience of Nick Browne, Tom Westley and Adam Rossington, while any side containing Simon Harmer must be taken seriously, although Harmer’s appearances will be limited by the South Africa Tests. Jamie Porter will lead the pace attack and they will be looking on improving on their semi-final place last year.
In the Hundred: Moeen Ali, Jack Haynes, Pat Brown
Worcestershire have pretty much a full squad to select from, although Pat Brown has been a late call-up to the Oval Invincibles. They had a disappointing Blast competition and will want some better performances over the next month. They have experienced performers in batting and bowling departments with the likes of Ed Pollock, Jake Libby, Brett D’Oliveira, Gareth Roderick, Ben Cox, Joe Leach and Dillon Pennington, who missed out on a Hundred call-up this year. They should be strong contenders.
In the Hundred: Ben Raine, Matty Potts, Brydon Carse, Mark Wood
Durham have lost a number of their seam options to the Hundred, but have a strong batting line-up and will be looking to go one step further this year, having been losing finalists in 2021. They did not get off to a great start, losing to Lincolnshire in their warm-up game, being bowled out for 205. The batting from this game will be reinforced by Alex Lees,
Michael Jones and David Bedingham and with a bowling attack led by Chris Rushworth they should turn things around.
In the Hundred: Miles Hammond, Ian Cockbain, Ryan Higgins, David Payne, Benny Howell, Graeme van Buuren
While Gloucestershire have had a miserable season in the Championship currently sitting at the bottom of Division One without a win, they finished fifth in the South Group in the Blast. They have traditionally had a reputation as limited over specialists and reached the quarter finals of last year’s competition. However, they are losing some key players to the Hundred and their season has been beset by injury problems, having to call in a number of seam bowlers on loan. They have a strong top order with Marcus Harris, Chris Dent and James Bracey and Paul van Meekeren is back to strengthen the bowling. However this is the area of concern.
In the Hundred: Adam Hose, Dan Mousley, Henry Brookes, Olly Stone, Chris Woakes, Sam Hain, Danny Briggs, Jake Lintott, Jacob Bethell, Alex Davies
As the Birmingham Bears, they topped the North Group in the Blast but Warwickshire have only won one game in this year’s County Championship. They have a strong squad and should be able to mount a strong challenge, despite the number of players lost to the Hundred. They have also shown intent by signing India all-rounder Krunal Pandya specifically for this competition. With Dom Sibley, Rob Yates, Will Rhodes and Michael Burgess at the top of the order and bowling from Craig Miles and Liam Norwell alongside Pandya they will be expected to feature in the latter stages.
In the Hundred: Ben Mike, Colin Ackerman, Rehan Ahmed, Callum Parkinson
Leicestershire have had a tough season in the County Championship, with six losses and no wins, although they were unlucky to miss out on a quarter final spot in the Blast, having won eight games, but then being penalised for on-field rules breaches. With the loss of some key players they are likely to be stretched in this competition and they will be hoping for more from their overseas pace bowler, Beuran Hendricks, who has been omitted from their Championship side in recent games. The absence of Wiaan Mulder from the South African Test squad also strengthens Leicestershire’s line-up.
In the Hundred: John Simpson, Tom Helm, Eoin Morgan, Blake Cullen
Middlesex have been underachieving in both red and white ball cricket since their Championship win in 2016, but are pushing hard for promotion from Division Two this year. They have enough depth in their squad to fill the gaps created by the absence of their Hundred players and will be looking to improve on the two wins in last year’s competition. Unfortunately they did not get off to a great start at the weekend, being bowled out by Berkshire for 350 in 44.3 overs and then allowing the opposition to chase down the target in just 40.3 overs. Young Joe Cracknell starred with the bat, making 147 from 94 balls and with the availability of Mark Stoneman and Sam Robson, scoring runs should not be a problem. However, as demonstrated in this game, the bowling is a concern.
In the Hundred: Leus du Plooy, Wayne Madsen, George Scrimshaw
With minimal disruption to their squad from the Hundred, Derbyshire, who have been performing well in the County Championship and who reached the quarter finals of the Blast, should feel they can go strongly in this competition. They will also have Shan Masood back from Pakistan’s tour of Sri Lanka. With Luis Reece, Billy Godleman and Brooke Guest at the top of the order alongside Masood, runs should be plentiful and it is just the bowling that might let them down. It has been an issue in the Championship with Derbyshire finding it difficult to take the 20 wickets needed for a win.
In the Hundred: Adam Rossington, Josh Cobb
Northamptonshire, like Derbyshire, might feel aggrieved at their lowly position in the rankings. They have a reputation for punching above their weight, but only managed two wins in last year’s competition. They have shown stout resistance following promotion to Division One, managing six draws and one win from their nine games and will be hoping that with the return of Will Young and only two call ups to the Hundred, they will be able to reach the knock-out stages. In their warm-up game against Bedfordshire they reached 319/8 from their 50 overs, with a century from Lewis McManus. However they may be concerned that their bowlers allowed the opposition to get to within seven runs of the target thanks to ex-Northants and Glamorgan batter James Kettleborough, who reached 192 not out from 149 balls. Nevertheless the team has steady performers throughout and should go well.
With the Hundred continuing to take players away from counties because of injuries and some uncertainties created by the release of Rory Burns from the Oval Invincibles back to Surrey for the Royal London Cup, predictions as to who the fancied teams are is difficult. It is not clear if the release of Burns is a one-off or whether there may be other such arrangements. Clearly the connection between the Invincibles and Surrey raise some issues. Would they release a player back to another county?
Last year unfancied Glamorgan came out on top and we would not be surprised to see a similar outcome this time around. The intention was that this is a competition that gives players who would not normally appear in county first elevens, the chance to show what they are capable of. It may also be that counties will take the opportunity to rest some of their more senior players in preparation for the final rounds of the Championship in September. The competition is therefore wide open and there will be few games where there is a clear favourite.
That’s the fun of it!