The Hundred may be grabbing all the headlines at the moment, but there’s another exciting short-format competition that also got underway recently in England – the Royal London One-Day Cup.
One of the (many) criticisms levelled at The Hundred competition relates to its scheduling, specifically that it would clash with this season’s One-Day Cup. Marquee players would clearly opt to play in the comparatively more lucrative Hundred competition if given the opportunity, so there was concern in some quarters that the premier domestic 50-over competition would be diminished as a result.
A more positive way to look at this would be that this calendar conundrum has created opportunities for other players to shine in the One-Day Cup. There are the likes of England legend Alastair Cook, who recently notched a 48th List A fifty to help Essex cruise to a nine-wicket victory against Middlesex, and Lanchashire’s Danny Lamb, who took career-best figures of 5-30 in his side’s victory at Gloucestershire. Most of the top online bookies listed on mybettingsites.com have Lancashire and Essex as the favourites to win the title this year, so no surprises that they have both started their Royal London Cup campaigns strongly.
The most exciting thing, though, is the space afforded to a slew of promising youngsters who have found themselves occupying squad slots that may not have been available had the most marketable players not been preoccupied with The Hundred.
One of a number of impressive white-ball debuts so far in this years’ One-Day Cup was that of Jacob Bethell. The 17-year-old Barbados-born batting all-rounder, who signed a three-year deal with Warwickshire in January, got off to an inauspicious start against Glamorgan and was caught behind for just two runs, but he responded with character belying his age to take 4 for 39. Ultimately futile as Glamorgan went on to seal a two-wicket win, Bethell’s strong ten-over spell nevertheless bodes well for the future.
Next in the line-up of star seventeen year-olds is Sussex leg spinner Archie Lenham. Lenham is the third generation of a Sussex dynasty (with dad Neil and grandfather Leslie both also turning out for the Hove-based team) and the first Vitality Blast T20 player to be born after the competition’s inaugural season in 2013. He’s already impressed in the 20-over format for the Sharks this season and has evidently carried his fine form into the One-Day Cup, taking 4 wickets against Lancashire, including two in four balls, on what was his seventeenth birthday.
The selection committee for the various young player of the season awards truly have an unenviable task on their hands this season, made all the harder by 18-year-old seamer Sonny Baker’s debut for Somerset. 3 for 46 in a six-wicket win in front of 3,000 fans is the sort of List A debut that budding bowlers dream of.
A final mention must go to the best young batting performances of the competition so far, being those of Harry Duke and George Hill, the next two talents coming off the Yorkshire production line. The pair, 19 and 20 years old respectively and both playing only their second List A matches, helped Yorkshire easily chase down a competitive total of 327 posted by Leicestershire. Duke’s 125 from 130 balls appeared to be the match’s best innings before Hill walked out to the middle and smashed an unbeaten 90 off just 81.
If the first few matches of the Royal London One-Day Cup are anything to go by, the future of English white-ball cricket is looking very promising indeed. There’s plenty to get excited about beyond the glitz and glamour of The Hundred.