Five unattached wildcards to watch in the Hundred draft
The List of names in the Hundred draft is a who's who of English domestic cricket, although one or two names stand out for their lack of current affiliation to a county. We pick through some of the wilder picks on offer
Azharullah has already done the rags-to-riches tale once, and now, at the age of 35, he's back for another shot at the big time. In 2006, he was an ex-Pakistan Academy prospect, playing for Pudsey Congs in the Bradford League; seven years later (and now married to the club scorer, Emma) he was a T20 Blast champion with Northants, and their leading wicket-taker in the competition. Rapid, and armed with a fierce yorker, Azharullah epitomised Northants' Moneyball approach to T20 squad-building.
One of the great unfulfilled talents of English cricket. Coles's roistering allround abilities marked him out as a man for the future, but his potential never quite outweighed his ability to attract trouble - unlike that of his former England Lions team-mate, Ben Stokes, with whom he was sent home from the England Lions tour of Australia in 2012-13 for late-night drinking. A change of scene, from Kent to Hampshire, couldn't shake the bad-boy reputation, and subsequent stints at Essex and Northamptonshire have failed to bear much fruit.
Controversy and tragedy have dogged the career of a player who first hit the headlines in 2010, when an expletive-laden rant against the then-England Under-19 coach John Abrahams became one of cricket's first "Twitter-storms". Rafiq then made further headlines before he'd even played a match for Yorkshire, when the club's failure to register him properly led to the cancellation of their T20 Blast quarter-final at Chester-le-Street. He survived being released by Yorkshire in 2014 to fight his way back into the squad two years later, and in between whiles formed an impressive spin partnership with Adil Rashid. But he was released by the club a second time in 2018, after the tragic loss of his unborn daughter had contributed to a downturn in form. Now plying his trade for Lincolnshire, and hopeful of a third coming.
After eight years of nomadic club cricket - summers in England, winters in Australia - Oliver finally got his big break at Worcestershire in 2014, and seized it with aplomb. His prior encounters with stand-in twos coach Kevin Sharp earned him a cameo opportunity in the second XI, and he duly cracked a trio of centuries against Derbyshire and Lincolnshire, before riding a wave of euphoria all the way to Worcestershire's starting XI for the T20 Blast. Opening alongside Moeen Ali, Oliver lit up the tournament, and soon signed his first professional contract after an innings of 77 from 43 against the reigning champions, Northants - after which he spent the rest of the summer living in a caravan near New Road. His fortunes dipped in his second season, however, and he opted to return to Australia rather than work on his game through the winter.
There's another one! Tom Banton is already the talk of English cricket - and Welsh for that matter, after being unveiled as one of Fire's picks at the team unveil last week. But at the age of 18, Tom's little brother Jacques is already making waves on the academy and Twos scene for Worcestershire - how does 139 from 70 balls against Ireland Under-19s sound, and in a T20 too? Outside of county commitments, he opens alongside Warwickshire's Ed Pollock for his club side Barnt Green, while a handy sideline in left-arm spin could make him a tempting wildcard for those who believe that talent runs in the family.