Mandhana’s star power brings the Women’s Hundred to life as the Brave defeat the Rockets.

Mandhana's star power brings the Women's Hundred to life as the Brave defeat the Rockets.

Mandhana’s 55 aided Southern Brave’s 157, the highest total in the Trent Bridge women’s Hundred.

Mandhana's star power brings the Women's Hundred to life as the Brave defeat the Rockets.
Smriti Mandhana swings over the leg side.

Mandhana’s innings helped the Southern Brave to 157,

Trent Rockets 130 for 7 (N Sciver-Brunt 49, Taylor 3-20) were defeated by Southern Brave 157 for 6 (Mandhana 55).

After Rashid Khan’s last-minute withdrawal, the men’s Hundred is short on international superstars, but Smriti Mandhana’s elegant 55 ensured the women’s competition kicked off with a sprinkle of stardust at Trent Bridge.

Mandhana’s innings helped the Southern Brave to 157, the highest total in the women’s Hundred at this venue and one that proved far too difficult to achieve. Despite Nat Sciver-Brunt’s best efforts, the Trent Rockets were late off the launchpad, and the Brave won by 27 runs.

Sciver-Brunt gave Brave a scare by slamming 18 runs off five balls from Maitlan Brown to reach 44 runs off 27 balls. She smashed another boundary from Anya Shrubsole, leaving 57 required off 24, but chipped a return catch to fall for 49 and end the game.

Salaries in the Women’s Hundred were frozen after the 2022 season, but the introduction of India’s Women’s Premier League (WPL) has changed the landscape of short-form tournaments. Brave signed Mandhana to a top-tier GBP 31,250 contract, which is less than one-tenth of the INR 3.4 crore she was paid by Royal Challengers Bangalore.

The women’s game has not yet reached the saturation phase that has rendered the men’s game irrelevant. There are just three top-tier leagues in the world: the WPL, the Hundred, and the WBBL, with a few more at a lower level.

Due to hard workloads, injuries, or both, some of Australia’s finest players have opted out of the Hundred this year. However, the overall caliber of foreign players in the women’s competition is high, which Mandhana’s presence only emphasizes. “Along with the WPL, this is probably still up there with one of the best competitions in the world,” said Kirstie Gordon, a tight bowler for the Rockets.

With only one net session since returning from India’s visit to Bangladesh, Mandhana collaborated with Danni Wyatt and Maia Bouchier to make 55 off 36 balls. As the Rockets’ seamers struggled to react to the left-right opening combination, the Brave surged to 45 for 0 in their 25-ball powerplay.

“Initially, I didn’t know more than two or three bowlers,” Mandhana explained. “I’d just watched their videos, so it was important for me to see them and how the wicket was playing because I’d just returned from a tour in Bangladesh, where the conditions were quite different.”

The Brave chose not to re-sign Sophia Dunkley during the off-season, instead relying on their complimentary opening duo. “Those two at the top, Smriti and Danni, have been exceptional for us,” Shrubsole said, according to Sky Sports. “They were the two we really wanted to keep because they get us off to such a good start: right- and left-handed players who can play completely differently and hit the ball in different areas.”

Mandhana's star power brings the Women's Hundred to life as the Brave defeat the Rockets.
Danni Wyatt and Smriti Mandhana resumed their opening partnership.

Wyatt chipped Bryony Smith into the off side, where Sciver-Brunt took a brilliant catch coming back from extra cover, but Bouchier came out swinging, smashing 31 off 18 balls with four fours and a slog-swept six.

Through the middle phase, Mandhana pounced on the Rockets’ spinners, sprinting down the pitch and lofting Smith’s offbreak back over her head for a straight six, and when she brought up a 32-ball half-century, the Brave seemed on track to break their own record total in the women’s Hundred of 166.

Brave struggled near the end, losing five wickets for 29 runs off the last 22 balls, but Chloe Tryon’s 10-ball 23 from No. 5 kept them in the game.

The Rockets’ reply began with a run-out, with Smith stitched up by Lizelle Lee when Shrubsole’s leg-side wide diverted down to Kalea Moore at short fine leg, and 158 always looked a tall order, despite the presence of Sciver-Brunt and Harmanpreet Kaur in the middle order.

This was the Brave’s 13th win in 15 group games in the competition’s infancy. The ECB is hoping for a more competitive balance in the tournament this season after introducing a draft earlier this year in an attempt to lessen the gap between the top and poorest clubs.

Brave’s roster appears thinner than in previous years: England seamer Lauren Bell is out for the first two games, resting after a long Ashes series, while Australian legspinner Amanda-Jade Wellington was drafted by Manchester Originals following two productive seasons at the Ageas Bowl.

However, the south coast continues to be a source of fresh, local talent, as 18-year-old Mary Taylor demonstrated by eliminating both Lee and Naomi Dattani early in the run chase. She returned to catch Jo Gardner at the death, finishing with 3 for 18 on Hundred’s debut and completing Brave’s victory.

Taylor, who was a standby for England’s Under-19 World Cup squad earlier this year, said Brave coach Charlotte Edwards had kept her instructions as straightforward as possible. “She told me, ‘Just bowl straight.'” All I wanted to do was strike the stumps. It was completely surreal. I’m overjoyed to be here; I’m positively giddy.”


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