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Women’s Hundred comes to life thanks to Mandhana’s stardust as Brave defeat Rockets

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Trent Rockets’ 130 for 7 (N Sciver-Brunt’s 49, Taylor’s 3-20) was defeated by Southern Brave’s 157 for 6 (Mandhana’s 55) by 27 runs.

Rashid Khan’s last-minute withdrawal from the men’s Hundred leaves the women’s tournament lacking in international superstars, but Smriti Mandhana’s chic 55 made sure Trent Bridge’s women’s competition got off to a star-studded start.

Mandhana’s performance supported Southern Brave’s 157 total, which was the highest score in the women’s Hundred at this venue and was ultimately out of reach. Despite Nat Sciver-Brunt’s best efforts, Trent Rockets were slow to leave the starting line, and Brave eventually won by a score of 27 runs.

By scoring 18 runs off just five Maitlan Brown deliveries to reach 44 runs off just 27 balls, Sciver-Brunt briefly put Brave in danger. She struck another boundary off Anya Shrubsole, leaving 57 runs needed off 24, but she mishandled a return catch, allowing the ball to fall for 49 and the game to be declared over.

After the 2022 season, salaries in the women’s Hundred remained frozen, but the introduction of the Women’s Premier League (WPL) in India has changed the short-form league scene. Mandhana was retained by Brave on a top-bracket contract at GBP 31,250, which is not nearly one-tenth of the INR 3.4 crore that Royal Challengers Bangalore paid her.

The men’s Hundred is still fighting for relevancy, while the women’s game has not yet reached that stage of saturation. The WPL, the Hundred, and the WBBL are the only three top-tier leagues in the world, with a few more competing at a lower level.

Due to intense workloads, injuries, or a combination of the two, some of Australia’s best players missed the Hundred this year. However, the overall calibre of foreign competitors in the women’s tournament is high, which Mandhana’s presence only serves to emphasise. Kirstie Gordon, who bowled well for the Rockets, stated, “Along with the WPL, this is probably still up there with one of the best competitions in the world.”

With only one nets session since arriving and just returning from India’s tour of Bangladesh, Mandhana collaborated with Danni Wyatt and Maia Bouchier to make 55 off 36 balls. In their 25-ball powerplay, the Brave quickly reached 45 for 0 as the Rockets’ seamers struggled to adjust to the left-right opening combination after a shaky start.

Initially, Mandhana admitted, “I didn’t know two or three bowlers.” Because I had just finished a tour of Bangladesh and the circumstances there were quite different, it was crucial for me to examine their footage and how the wicket was playing.

In the off-season, Brave made the decision to support their complimentary opening duo rather than keeping Sophia Dunkley. “Those two at the top, Smriti and Danni, have been exceptional for us,” Shrubsole said to Sky Sports. Because they help us get off to such fantastic beginnings, right- and left-handers who can play completely differently and hit the ball in various spots were the two we really wanted to keep.

Wyatt chipped Bryony Smith into the off side, where Sciver-Brunt took a superb catch running back from extra cover. However, Bouchier, who had not played for England in their Ashes campaign, came out swinging, scoring 31 runs off of 18 balls, including four fours and a slog-swept six.

Brave was on track to surpass their own record score in the women’s Hundred of 166 when Mandhana pounced on Rockets’ spinners during the middle phase, skipping down the pitch and lofting Smith’s offbreak back over her head for a straight six.

Chloe Tryon’s 10-ball 23 at No. 5 kept Brave from falling short despite losing five wickets for 29 runs off the final 22 balls as they limped towards the conclusion.

Despite having Sciver-Brunt and Harmanpreet Kaur in the middle order, the Rockets’ response began with a run-out, with Smith being stitched up by Lizelle Lee when Shrubsole’s leg-side wide drifted down to Kalea Moore at short fine leg. 158 always seemed like a lofty goal.

This was Brave’s 13th victory in 15 games during the competition’s infancy. After introducing a draught earlier this year in an effort to narrow the gap between the best and poorest teams, the ECB is hopeful that the competition will demonstrate to have a more competitive balance this season.

On paper, Brave’s team appears to be smaller than in years past. England seamer Lauren Bell will miss the first two games to rest after a taxing Ashes series, and legspinner Amanda-Jade Wellington of Australia was selected by Manchester Originals after two successful seasons at the Ageas Bowl.

However, the south coast continues to be a hotspot for rising young talent from the region, as 18-year-old Mary Taylor demonstrated by eliminating both Lee and Naomi Dattani early in the run chase. On her Hundred debut, she finished with 3 for 18 and put the finishing touches on Brave’s triumph by coming back to have Jo Gardner caught at the very last second.

Taylor, who served as a reserve for England’s Under-19 World Cup team earlier this year, claimed that Brave coach Charlotte Edwards had kept her advice as straightforward as possible. She advised me to bowl straight. I only desired to strike the stumps. It seemed so bizarre. I’m positively humming from being here; I’m so excited.

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