he first edition of The Hundred began a year later than planned and perhaps it would have been better had the second got out of the traps at least a day late, too.
After last night’s underwhelming start, the tournament came alive as Eoin Morgan marked his first appearance since international retirement by rolling back the years with a vintage knock before London Spirit held on to beat Oval Invincibles in a final-ball thriller.
Morgan announced the end of his England career back in June after a dismal run of form that had spanned 18 months but looked in superb touch on his return to action, crashing 47 from 29 balls as Spirit set a target of 172.
Invincibles, among the pre-tournament favourites, were 11 for four at one stage, with England opener Jason Roy’s struggles continuing as he was out for a duck to the first ball of the reply, but came within four runs of pulling off an unlikely chase after some brutal middle and lower-order hitting.
Earlier, Pakistan seamer Mohammad Hasnain had taken two wickets on his Invincibles debut, including that of Test opener Zak Crawley, who impressed for his 21 off 11 before falling to a bizarre dismissal, caught after the ball looped up off his thigh pad and clipped the top of his bat in his follow-through before carrying to Billings behind the stumps.
Former West Indies spinner Sunil Narine also took two wickets, including the key one of Australian star Glenn Maxwell (18), but Tom Curran was taken apart, his 20 balls costing a wicketless 40 runs.
Reece Topley, a shining light amid England’s disappointing white-ball summer, impressed again and eventually ended Morgan’s innings, but only after the 35-year-old had plundered three sixes and five fours as the visitors made 171 for six, their highest ever total after a series of woeful displays in the inaugural edition last year.
After a barren spell during England’s white-ball series against India and South Africa last month, Roy is looking to recapture some form during the Hundred, with a view to England’s tour of Pakistan in September and then the T20 World Cup in Australia that follows. Instead, he edged Australian quick Nathan Ellis to straight to Mason Crane at short third-man and was left chuckling to himself in disbelief as he left the field.
At his best, Roy is England’s tone setter but here his departure prompted a collapse. Will Jacks, enjoying a superb season for Surrey, and Invincibles skipper Sam Billings each made only one while Sam Curran fell in between, Ellis and Jordan Thompson claiming a couple of scalps apiece as Invincibles lost their top four in the space of 17 balls.
After last night’s opener between Welsh Fire and Southern Brave had petered out into a drab affair, this contest was threatening to do likewise, with 120 still required at the midway stage even as the fifth-wicket pair of Jordan Cox and Hilton Cartwright gradually began to rebuild.
However, an explosive spell of six boundaries in seven balls, including a monstrous 103m six from Cartwright that bounced off the railing and out of the ground, brought fireworks and ignited hope of a big finish.
The Australian was caught behind off Crane for 42 off 23 and Cox soon followed, bowled to become Ellis’ third victim for 39, but an error-strewn penultimate set from Chris Wood opened the door once more, leaving Thompson 17 to defend off the final five balls.
Danny Briggs (29* off 11) found the boundary with each of the first two of them, but Thompson held his nerve.