Our cricket correspondent Ed Hawkins analyses the winners and the losers from the first draft for The Hundred...
"Dane Vilas for £125,000 may in future be excused as one of the Originals' bidders tripping the light fantastic about a luxury estate opportunity in Denmark"
Invincibles off to good start
In a week when eight ludicrously-named, garish-kitted 'franchises' splurged hundreds of thousands on players, some of them falsehearted and frauds, and the ECB's administrators were exposed in a government inquiry as presiding over an £8 million shortfall ahead of The Hundred next year, no-one in English cricket seems to have paid heed to the oldest betting maxim in the book.
The Hundred is the biggest gamble in the history of the game in England. Counties and players split, divided and now ruled between new, crisp-packet funded teams all in the name of a fast buck. A buck that was coming along very nicely thank you on the inside, with record-breaking ticket sales in the hugely competitive and entertaining Blast, a competition which will suffer due to its demoted status.
Few picked up on the irony, during the Department of Culture, Media and Sports investigation, of cricket's wittering that it failed to receive any financial benefit from the betting industry's interest in the game. The golden rule of gambling is this: don't bet with money you can't afford to lose. They can have that one for free. Here's another: cricket wouldn't exist without gambling, its rules and regulations back in the 1800s were drawn up precisely to declare winners or losers for the bookies.
What the lesson will be from The Hundred in 200-odd years' time is anyone's guess. But after the pre-draft hype and the mild excitement of teams called Oval Invincibles (a moniker which makes even spell check blush) and Northern Superchargers spraying money around like the tickertape on the Blast trophy stage, one can be sure that in its desperation to attract as much interest as possible, the ECB will be rather keen for folks to be considering a flutter or several on its new competition.
In that regard, The Hundred is unlikely to disappoint. For the hardcore, it offers a tremendous test. Gamblers will be feverishly trying to work out their edge from now until ball one. What will be an average score? Which teams are most likely to overvalue wickets? Will spinners be as dominant as they were in T20? The rest will be chomping at the bit for a gamble on Andre Russell's sixes haul or a Jason Roy top batter. It's all much-needed gristle to the ECB mill.
And whether you like The Hundred or not, there is little doubt it's going to be a betting frenzy. To paraphase every cricket journalist who have had their knickers in a twist, it's coming and there's nothing you can do about it.
Worth trying to wonder who might win the thing then? A couple of weeks ago this column suggested that post-draft we would have a clear idea of who the teams to avoid would be. Chiefly, ones which splurged on the likes of Chris Gayle, Shahid Afridi or Steve Smith. Well, only Smith was sold so bang goes that piece of assistance. Any Gale-laden outfit was one to avoid.
Rise of the analysts
Instead, we seemed to have a draft which, with the odd exception (oh, we'll come to you later, Manchester Originals) which was heavily influenced by analysts. And one of the teams we suspected could be guilty of emotional-driven picks, the Invincibles, ended up rejecting emotion almost entirely, and outing faith in hard data. Now you're talking. Jeez, we might even end up loving this scam.
The Invincibles arguably did the best business of any team with their selection of Sunil Narine and Sandeep Lamichhane, two of the finest spin bowlers in T20 and who should be capable of tying teams down just when they are needing to go beserk. Narine's pinch-hitting could also be invaluable in such a short innings. Two players for the price of one in a 200-ball match? They have crunched the numbers expertly to add the West Indian.
Narine and Lamichhane were, of course, expensive. But the best piece of business of all could be Laurie Evans, top scorer in the Blast in 2018, for just 30 grand. A potential front four of Roy-Narine-Evans-Billings has the sort of reckless vibe which one feels is a necessity.
Birmingham Phoenix also did impressive work. Pakistan left-arm pace ace Shaheen Afridi was identified on these pages as a game-changer. Liam Livingstone is a good addition. Ravi Bopara likewise considering his destructive form in the Blast. But pairing unfashionable duo Benny Howell and Pat Brown from unfashionable teams like Gloucestershire and Worcestershire respectively, the sort of marginalised counties who will surely suffer from the jamboree, could be the masterstroke. Still, we have no idea why they signed Kane Williamson so they didn't get everything right.
Williamson could prove to be as stinker or tinkerer. Although what use the latter would be in the bowling Armageddon is anyone's guess. Likewise Smith for Welsh Fire who also have the air of a team who could struggle to defend. The same could be said of Southern Brave, Sportsbook's jollies. Trent Rockets, meanwhile, focussed almost entirely on signing as many Nottinghamshire players as possible. They are an early contender for the first use of 'against the spirit of the game' stick, which is saying something.
If the Rockets's early bias is something to be enraged over, the Originals are, possibly, the original jokers. Having gone into the draft with Jos Buttler and Matt Parkinson, possibly the most sought-after two homegrown players, they preceded to whizz their advantage up the wall like Bez after a particularly heavy pills and pop session. Dane Vilas for £125,000 may in future be excused as one of their bidders tripping the light fantastic about a luxury estate opportunity in Denmark.
Southern Brave 10/3
Jofra Archer, Andre Russell, David Warner, Liam Dawson, James Vince, Shadab Khan, Chris Jordan, Tymal Mills, Ross Whiteley, Delray Rawlins, Ollie Pope, George Garton, Alex Davies, Max Waller, Craig Overton.
Northern Superchargers 4/1
Ben Stokes, Aaron Finch, Mujeeb Ur Rahman, Chris Lynn, Adil Rashid, Adam Lyth, David Willey, Richard Gleeson, Ben Foakes, Tom Kohler-Cadmore, David Wiese, Nathan Rimmington, Brydon Carse, Ed Barnard, John Simpson.
Trent Rockets 11/2
Joe Root, Rashid Khan, D'Arcy Short, Lewis Gregory, Alex Hales, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Harry Gurney, Steven Mullaney, Matthew Carter, Luke Wood, Tom Moores, Dawid Malan, Ben Cox, Luke Fletcher, Luke Wright.
Welsh Fire 6/1
Jonny Bairstow, Mitchell Starc, Steve Smith, Colin Ingram, Tom Banton, Ben Duckett, Ravi Rampaul, Simon Harmer, Qais Ahmed, Liam Plunkett, Ryan ten Doeschate, David Payne, Ryan Higgins, Danny Briggs, Leus du Plooy.
Oval Invincibles 6/1
Sam Curran, Sunil Narine, Jason Roy, Sam Billings, Sandeep Lamichhane, Rilee Rossouw, Tom Curran, Reece Topley, Hardus Viljoen, Fabian Allen, Alex Blake, Will Jacks, Chris Wood, Nathan Sowter, Laurie Evans.
Birmingham Phoenix 7/1
Chris Woakes, Liam Livingstone, Moeen Ali, Kane Williamson, Ravi Bopara, Benny Howell, Tom Helm, Shaheen Afridi, Pat Brown, Adam Hose, Cameron Delport, Henry Brookes, Adam Zampa, Riki Wessels, Chris Cooke.
Manchester Originals 8/1
Jos Buttler, Imran Tahir, Dane Vilas, Phil Salt, Tom Abell, Matt Parkinson, Saqib Mahmood, Daniel Christian, Wayne Madsen, Wayne Parnell, Mitchell Santner, Joe Clarke, Marchant de Lange, Ed Pollock, Eddie Byrom.
London Spirit 8/1
Rory Burns, Glenn Maxwell, Eoin Morgan, Mohammad Nabi, Mohammad Amir, Roelof van der Merwe, Mark Wood, Joe Denly, Dan Lawrence, Mason Crane, Kyle Abbott, Adam Rossington, Zak Crawley, Jade Dernbach, Luis Reece.