Men’s Hundred 2022 – Hundred hurly-burly leaves captains under pressure like never before

Captaincy is the toughest challenge T20 cricket has to offer and in the Hundred it gets even more difficult: just ask Sam Billings and Eoin Morgan after the tournament clicked into gear on Thursday night at The Oval with a pinch-and-tuck London derby .

Billings has built a reputation as one of the best captains in English domestic cricket, leading Kent to the T20 Blast title last year and gobbling up all the information sent to him. In televised games, it’s impossible to miss him as he keeps wicket, constantly adjusting the field, cheering on his bowlers and reminding batters that a particular matchup preys on their perceived weakness.

Morgan, meanwhile, is being praised throughout the game for his leadership after seven and a half years at the helm of England’s whiteball teams. After his international retirement, he has reached a point in his career where he will definitely retire from the sport once he stops enjoying it, but he clearly still relishes the chance to captain the short form he happens to represent.

But the Hundred is a different beast than T20: The format requires captains to make almost constant decisions, considering whether to keep a bowler on for an extra set of five balls. Consecutive sets of each end mean that captains have less to follow a pattern or formula with bowling changes, and acting in sets of five instead of six means that the pace and rhythm of the game differ significantly.

On Thursday night, Billings effectively made a bowling change at every opportunity. Data from the league’s first season painted a clear picture that bowlers lined up in the second set of five when they bowled two in a row, and Billings relied on the numbers. Morgan, on the other hand, went with his gut and gave Mason Crane two separate sets of 10, and another to Liam Dawson.

Time constraints are killer: teams have just 65 minutes to bowl their balls (albeit with regular upgrades due to ratings or injuries), or else they’re forced to bring an extra fielder into the 30-yard ring on death. On Thursday night, Invincibles missed cut-off time by eight balls, and Spirit looted 20 while the extra man was in the ring; Spirit’s seven balls with only four outs cost 19.

“It definitely feels like you’re making more decisions [than in T20]Billings had explained in the run-up. “You just don’t have the time: it’s only one ball less per set, but it makes a huge difference. You have to think carefully and make decisions very, very quickly.” After the three-point defeat of Invincibles, he admitted that the whole squad had been “rusty”.

For Billings, the challenge is made even more challenging by the fact that he is constantly involved behind the stumps. He has spoken to Jos Buttler about the difficulty of being a goalkeeper captain, delegating some responsibility to Sam Curran and Jason Roy halfway through and through instead of constantly sprinting back and forth, but then the balls and wide piled up. up, time has caught up with Invincibles.

Billings plans elaborate short game plans and studies something akin to a “cheat sheet” to prepare, with an important thing to remember about plans for each batter and when to use each bowler. But as Mike Tyson said, everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth: Spirit came out swinging the bat and chasing every shot that played the highest order of Invincibles went to hand.

“The rhythm of the game is very different,” Billings said. “Let’s face it, we played terrible all day. If you’re 12 to 4 you’re normally out of the game, so it’s a brilliant attempt to make it to the last ball.”

Morgan, meanwhile, is in a different phase of his career and seems to see his role in the Hundred as as much a calling as a job. “I love playing in matches like that. You really get to know more about your players, the opponents and how well guys handle pressure. It’s great for English cricket to be able to play under these conditions.”

With the bat, he made his highest score in all cricket in the past year, hitting 47 from 29 balls, including three sixes in his first game since his international retirement, but in the field, the game almost ran away from him. He only used five bowlers, juggling their assignments as carefully as he could, but like Billings, the game slipped from his control and the cut-off time nearly cost Spirit a lot of money as Hilton Cartwright, Jordan Cox, Tom Curran and Danny Briggs waved Invincibles back in the game.

Returning to a format that is only played for a month a year was a shock to everyone involved, not least Nathan Ellis, who won the match award for his 3 for 28 on his debut. Ellis had seen highlights of last year’s competition but no live matches – the time difference means they are hard to follow in Australia – and admitted he was surprised by the pace of the match.

“I stumbled through it,” he said. “You don’t really get a chance to talk much: even in time-out I sprinted in to have a drink and by the time I got there I had to get out again. The time pressure made it very difficult, but if bowler is having Morgs’ calming influence invaluable.”

Off the pitch, the Hundred is all about the bigger picture: with a crowd of 22,284 people gripped by the Invincibles near miss until the very end, the ECB will have breathed a sigh of relief after a false start in the Ageas Bowl on the opening night . But at this point, the game has become more and more detailed and detailed for captains: T20 captaincy is difficult, but leading a hundred team is a whole new ball game.

Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98

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