The Oval Invincibles will take on the Manchester Originals to kick off The Hundred Men's 2021. The game will be played at Kennington Oval and will begin at 11:00 PM IST on Thursday, July 22.
The Oval Invincibles have a power-packed squad led by England's golden boy Sam Curran. The all-rounder was rested for the series against Pakistan but has been in fine form over the last 18 months, cementing his position as one of England’s premier all-rounders across all formats of the game.
Curran will have the opportunity to showcase his leadership skills during the tournament, and the 22-year-old could very well stamp his authority as a future England captain.
At the top of the order, Jason Roy will be keen to carry on his form from the Pakistan series and remain amongst the runs heading into the T20 World Cup later this year.
Roy is one of the most destructive batters at the top of the order and is likely to be joined by Rory Burns, another accomplished international for England.
Middle order players Sam Billings, Colin Ingram and Will Jacks boast stability and destructiveness, with Sam Curran, Tom Curran and Sunil Narine to follow to add the finishing touches.
It’ll be interesting to see how Invincibles use Narine, with the West Indian having batted at the top of the order in recent times.
The bowling department will be led by Saqib Mahmood, who impressed during the series against Pakistan. Mahmood will be partnered with Reece Topley, who recently played for England during the tour of India.
Nathan Sowter will take up the final spot in the XI and share spin bowling duties with Narine in the absence of Tabraiz Shamsi.
Manchester Original have the most enviable top three in The Hundred, with captain Jos Buttler set to open with Phil Salt.
Both are known for their explosiveness at the top of the order and will be followed by New Zealand superstar Colin Munro, another swashbuckling cricketer. The trio will have the responsibility to get the Originals to a good score.
While Manchester does not have the biggest names in the middle order, Sam Hain and Joe Clarke have been in and around the T20 circuit in England. All-rounder Tom Lammonby should also feature, having recently scored an eye-catching 90 for Somerset.
Carlos Brathwaite, the 2016 T20 World Cup winner, is likely to be the team’s designated finisher. He is expected to chip in with the ball as well.
Their bowling attack, however, is well rounded, with Matt Parkinson leading the spin contingent. New Zealand’s Lockie Ferguson will lead the pace battery.
The experience of Steven Finn will also be of great help to the Originals, who also have Ollie Robinson in their ranks along with all-rounders Dan Douthwaite and Fred Klaasen.
Can the Originals beat the Invincibles?
On paper, the Invincibles boast of a much stronger squad than the Originals. The hosts have a line-up full of superstars with international pedigree, and their deep batting line-up is a nightmare for bowling attacks.
For the Originals, their top three have to fire on all cylinders and hope that Lockie Ferguson and Co. can spring some magic and restrict Jason Roy and Co.
The bowling line-ups of both teams are fairly on par, and the game is likely to be decided by which batters accept the challenge and come out on top. Invincibles’ long batting order and international experience make them the favorites.
Prediction: Oval Invincibles to win the match.