It was one of those quirks that last year’s eliminator participants opened this year’s Hundred. It was a familiar ending as Southern Brave, again threatened by the big-hitting of Nat Sciver-Brunt, prevailed to win by 27 runs at Trent Bridge.
One of the more unpredictable aspects of franchise cricket is the ever-changing nature of teams, and into its third year, The Hundred is no different. Southern Brave and Trent Rockets met at the Ageas Bowl in the penultimate game of last year’s competition; only 11 players from that day took to the field at Trent Bridge, with each team looking to find a winning formula that would break the Oval Invinciables’ firm grip on the trophy.
The Brave have stuck with a core of players, not all with superstar billing but with Smriti Mandhana and Danni Wyatt opening the batting, it is going to relieve some pressure on those coming into bat next. That happened in the opening game of the Hundred as Mandhana, with a 36 ball 55 and Wyatt with a run a ball 27, set a platform for Maia Bouchier and Chloe Tryon to build on. The opening pair added 65 from 42 balls.
Trent Rockets struggled to gain any control with the ball early on. Alexa Stonehouse and Naomi Dattani took some time to find their rhythm, and Kathrine Sciver-Brunt, in her first game, was expensive from her 15 balls.
It took Bryony Smith to make the breakthrough, and with figures of two for 34, the pick of the bowlers, dismissing both the openers. Smith, who has a decent record against Mandhana, was the sixth bowler the Rockets used. While Kirstie Gordon was economical as usual with one for 17, the off-spin of Smith got the Rockets back in the game, albeit with an assault from Bouchier, who clubbed 31 from 18 balls and helped Brave to a second wicket stand of 63 from 36 balls.
Southern Brave ended with a total of 156 for six from their innings, the highest score that Trent Rockets have conceded in the tournament. Even with Nat Sciver-Brunt, Harmanpreet Kaur and Lizelle Lee, it would take some effort to chase their south coast opponents’ score.
What didn’t help the home team’s chances was the run out of Smith from a wide off the first ball of the innings. While Lee isn’t renowned for her running between the wickets, it was a sign of things to come for her team.
In her first full season, Mary Taylor did the damage with three for 18, accounting for the wickets of Dattani, Lee and Jo Gardner.
With Nat Sciver-Brunt and Kaur in the middle, the Rockets still could win, although it looked improbable and even further off after Kaur was caught off the bowling of Georgia Adams for 22.
Sciver-Brunt is the batter you turn to when you need someone to stand up and be counted, and she almost did it again before she offered Anya Shrubsole a caught and bowled opportunity the former England seamer wasn’t going to put down.
With Sciver-Brunt gone for 49, so did the Rocket‘’s chances. There was much to learn for two teams still figuring out the best way to go about this year’s competition, and as of yet, there is nothing that either team will worry about too much.