It would insult your intelligence not to recognize the divisive nature of The Hundred.
The row about its existence and whether it will be the savior or death of English cricket polarizes opinion like the blue and white Twitter dress, Marmite and the end of the latest Bond film (blue, yes to Marmite, good film with a bad ending ) .
The division and debate is somewhat sexist, as far as the male version of The Hundred is concerned. Few can argue that the inaugural edition of the women’s tournament was anything but a resounding success.
That is probably why the first week of this year’s Hundred looked lackluster, after the women’s entry was delayed due to the Commonwealth Games T20 competition.
There have been moments of excellent cricket from the men, not least Will Smeed’s history-making century, but not many tight finishes.
The grounds were busy, rather than full. In terms of making an impact on the public consciousness, The Hundred has struggled against the Commonwealths and the start of the new Premier League season.
Some of the reasons for the extra oomph brought by the women are obvious. A double header is more of a day out for the crowd, giving extra time to get into the action and heighten the atmosphere. Two matches give twice the chance for an exciting conclusion.
Other reasons are more subtle. Compared to what else is on offer around the world, the Women’s Hundred is fresher and of a higher standard than any of its competitors, which really only includes Australia’s Big Bash League.
In men’s cricket, The Hundred is part of a crowded and growing franchise market, where players trot around the world and simply change the shirt they play in.
Apart from the withdrawal of Australian captain Meg Lanning, the women’s tournament has the absolute flavor of foreign talent. Kane Richardson, Hilton Cartwright and David Wiese are talented cricketers but probably not the men the organizers had in mind when The Hundred was launched.
Moreover, the female stars move less in and out of the tournament like their male counterparts, whose comings and goings are hard to follow. Rashid Khan played one game for Trent Rockets before leaving for international duty.
So, when the women finally made their entry into the 2022 Hundred on a sun-kissed afternoon at The Oval on Thursday, it was a most welcome return.
The double header between the Oval Invincibles and Northern Superchargers also served as an interesting experiment, with the women going second to the men – a first for a day at The Hundred.
It feels a little thin that this will be the only time this summer that the women get such a privilege.
There are arguments for each scenario. If we are to imagine that the men’s game will attract a larger audience, is it better for the women to play first, when spectators enter, then second when they leave?
The place should also be well chosen. The London grounds are probably a better fit than somewhere like Southampton, which is notoriously difficult to get to and from, therefore tempting those who want to leave early to beat the traffic.
To the naked eye, the Oval crowd held up pretty well for the start of the women’s match, before thinning out as the night wore on. Organizers said there were 21,339 inside for the men’s game and between 15,000 and 16,000 for the women’s.
Those who stayed did not see a classic match, but a supreme demonstration of why the Invincibles, the defending champions, will once again be the team to beat.
The homepage the Superchargers completely overplayed, whose total of 143-5 was bettered just five times in last year’s tournament, only to be overhauled with 16 balls and nine wickets to spare by the Invincibles.
The chase was led by former Supercharger Lauren Winfield-Hill, who played with a smile on her face after a tough year that saw her through England during the World Cup.
Her unbeaten 74 was supported by Suzie Bates ’46, but the real pyrotechnics came from rising star Alice Capsey, celebrating her 18th birthday with 21 from seven balls.
Inspirational captain Dane van Niekerk was not needed to bat, while the Invincibles still need fierce all-rounder Marizanne Kapp, who is missing due to illness, to come in.
They will face sterner tests than the Superchargers, who have invested in marquee overseas batters Alyssa Healy, Laura Wolvaardt and Jemimah Rodrigues, but look light on bowling. They also let her down with dropped catches.
On the day that The Hundred was whole again, it was the men who took care of the bigger drama, with the Curran brothers inspire a thrilling Invincibles run-chase.
However, the remaining six matches will be all the richer for the presence of the women.
Here come the girls.
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