Headingley side pick Stokes ahead of Test captain
Root and Bairstow are ignored by ‘home’ team Each of eight franchises pick an England player
Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow will have to become accustomed to life away from Yorkshire after Northern Superchargers, the new Hundred franchise based at Headingley, chose Ben Stokes as their one pick from England’s Test-contracted players.
Instead, Test captain Root has been drafted by the Trent Rockets in Nottingham and Bairstow will play for the Welsh Fire in Cardiff.
England’s World Cup winners lined up to support the Hundred yesterday as the first confirmed details of the competition were finally announced.
Each of the eight teams were allowed to pick one centrally-contracted Test player and two “local” icons from England’s white-ball players. The women’s teams could pick two England players. The names of the franchises were also confirmed and the kits made public. The tournament is being sponsored by KP Snacks and each team bear the logo of one of its brands, with KP Nuts on the shirts of the Oval Invincibles, which should keep Kevin Pietersen happy, and Hula Hoops on the Western Fire.
Chris Woakes was wearing a redand-pink shirt with Butterkist popcorn emblazoned across the front as the icon player for the Birmingham Phoenix, while England captains Eoin Morgan and Heather Knight will play at the Lord’s franchise, the London Spirit, sponsored by Tyrrells crisps, the suitably upmarket brand in the KP stable.
Root said: “I have never had to think about signing for anyone else in terms of county cricket, but I’m very excited to be involved at Trent Bridge. I think anyone who had Stokesy at their disposal on the back of this summer were on to a winner. Even if you were Virat Kohli, you would still have struggled to be picked ahead of Ben.”
Bairstow texted his friends in the Wales rugby team playing at the World Cup in Japan to tell them he would be in Cardiff next summer. “There is loyalty in county cricket to Yorkshire, but when it comes to a new league with new franchises, it is a new start. But it will feel weird going to Headingley and being in the away dressing room,” he said.
England’s Test players will be available for around four matches, including the finals weekend, and the women’s competition will run alongside the men’s. The men’s matches will take place at the eight Test grounds, which will host some women’s games as double headers, with others at smaller venues such as Northampton (London Spirit) and Taunton (Welsh Fire).
“Hopefully, it will put us on level pegging with the men and make cricket a gender-neutral sport,” said Knight. “It will be great for the women’s game. There is a danger our games could get lost, so it is important we make sure they are pushed forward and the players put on exciting cricket, embrace the tournament and put on a show.”
The Hundred has been beset with problems and political wrangling. Predictably, there were teething issues yesterday, with the big -screen graphics accompanying the announcement of the England player signings malfunctioning.
But it is the players who will make the tournament work and they are starting to come around to thinking about the tactics involved.
Bowlers will be able to bowl up to 10 balls in a row, providing a new strategic headache for captains, but batsmen believe it will just be Twenty20 with 100 balls instead of 120. Bairstow said teams would aim to score two runs a ball, making “180 to 200” a target, while Jofra Archer shrugged and said “why not” when asked if he could bowl 10 balls in a row at 90mph.
“I think it could improve death bowling in the short formats,” Root said.
Many existing supporters appear to have made up their minds about the competition, and tribal loyalties in British sport are why it has been so hard in the past to build franchise teams from nothing.
But with players such as AB de Villiers, David Warner, Mitchell Starc and Steve Smith in the draft, which will be held on Oct 20, the concentration of talent should help and the might of Sky Sports and the BBC, which will show its first live cricket content for 20 years, will benefit the England and Wales Cricket Board enormously.
Stuart Broad and James Anderson were not drafted and will be used for promotional purposes only, with both expected to work for BBC and Sky when not playing Test cricket for England.
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