Rashid Khan, Andre Russell, Mitchell Starc among top Hundred picks
There were big-name omissions, surprise picks and several bumper paydays for local players as the draft for the Hundred took place in London. Rashid Khan, the Afghanistan legspinner, was the first name selected in what is a ground-breaking exercise in British sport, while Chris Gayle and Lasith Malinga were among the top-bracket overseas stars to be overlooked in the opening round.
With England Test players and a pair of 'local icons' already selected earlier this month, the eight teams each had to fill 12 more spots in their squads for next year's inaugural competition. The format allowed 100 seconds for the team management to settle on their choices, with the Trent Rockets kicking things off by taking Rashid.
West Indies allrounder Andre Russell was second out of the hat, selected by Southern Brave, followed by Aaron Finch going to the Northern Superchargers and Mitchell Starc to Welsh Fire. Australia players were popular - the Future Tours Programme leaves them available for the whole of the Hundred - with Steven Smith, David Warner, Glenn Maxwell and D'Arcy Short all among those taken at £125,000 (USD161,000).
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"It's going to be exciting to be in the first ever hundred-ball comp," Smith told Sky via a satellite link. "I'm looking forward to joining the Welsh Fire, Jonny [Bairstow] and Starcy and the boys there - it looks a good squad that they've picked up so far so I'm looking forward to it."
There were also eye-catching deals for domestic players, with Liam Livingstone picked up in the first round by Birmingham Phoenix - more than doubling his earnings after setting a £60,000 (USD78,000) reserve price - while the Manchester Originals went down the local route by taking Dane Vilas, Lancashire's captain, for £125,000.
The second round, with contracts pegged at £100,000 (USD129,000), saw young English batsmen Phil Salt and Tom Abell make their way north to Manchester, while World Cup winner Liam Dawson was signed to play at his local ground, the Ageas Bowl, for Southern Brave. England wicketkeeper Sam Billings was picked up by the Oval Invincibles and experienced allrounder Ravi Bopara went to Birmingham Phoenix.
With overseas players unable to be purchased at below their base price, there were several notable omissions - perhaps influenced in part by availability. Alongside Gayle and Malinga, South Africa's Kagiso Rabada was overlooked in the £125,000 bracket, while the likes of Shakib Al Hasan, Dwayne Bravo, Kieron Pollard and Trent Boult missed out on the £100,000 slots.
Shakib had been touted as a popular pick but Bangladesh's programme of Tests against Sri Lanka and New Zealand in July and August next year rendered his availability uncertain; similarly, Babar Azam had entered with a £75,000 price tag after a finishing as the leading run-scorer in this year's Blast, but is likely to be involved in Pakistan's Test series against England.
"Coming here I was confident that I would get picked up," Russell said. "Not sure which team but I was confident. If I didn't get picked up then I'd be surprised. But I'd understand that because you've got a lot of good players all around the world and they're all here in the draft to be picked. With the likes of Chris Gayle, Bravo, Malinga and those guys that didn't get picked up, I would have that feeling right now like them."
The draft took place in Sky's west London complex, using a bespoke studio featuring eight three-man pods from which the teams could make their deliberations. The head coaches were all in attendance, accompanied in most cases by an assistant and the team's analyst, with the early rounds concluded relatively quickly - few picks took anywhere near 100 seconds as the top targets were snapped up.
Darren Lehmann, head coach of the Northern Superchargers, was pleased to have got his top three picks - Finch, Mujeeb Ur Rahman and Chris Lynn - while Shane Warne, his counterpart at London Spirit, said there had been a few "surprises" but he was happy with how things had panned out.
"To have [Mark] Wood and [Mohammad] Amir as opening bowlers, the spin of Mason Crane, [Roelof] van der Merwe and Maxwell is pretty good, gives a lot of variety and we've got some guys that can bash it - and I think the Hundred is going to be about bashing it," Warne said.
With 96 picks to be made and 571 names in the draft, there were bound to be more losers than winners on the night. England quick Olly Stone missed out, having set a reserve price of £50,000 (USD65,000), as did former internationals such as Samit Patel, Steven Finn, Ian Bell and Morne Morkel, who was available as a domestic player via his Kolpak deal with Surrey.
Other noteworthy picks included Essex's Blast-winning pair of Simon Harmer and Ryan ten Doeschate going to Welsh Fire, where they will be joined by Liam Plunkett and Ravi Rampaul (but no Welsh players). Birmingham signed New Zealand captain Kane Williamson and Pakistan's Shaheen Afridi - although his availability could also be in question - while Afghanistan allrounder Mohammad Nabi went to London Spirit. West Indies allrounder Fabian Allen won a deal at the Invincibles, and New Zealand spinner Mitchell Santner heads to Manchester.
There were some early trends that stood out. Southern Brave looked to stock up on pace, adding Russell, Tymal Mills and George Garton to the previously selected pair of Jofra Archer and Chris Jordan. Several teams picked along local lines - Trent Rockets going for Nottinghamshire pedigree in Steven Mullaney, Luke Fletcher, Matt Carter and Tom Moores, while the Superchargers added Durham bowlers Brydon Carse and Nathan Rimmington. Birmingham Phoenix left their choice of wicketkeeper until the final round, before picking up two in Riki Wessels and Chris Cooke.
Manchester Originals, meanwhile, set their focus on the longer term, adding Salt, Abell, Joe Clarke, Ed Pollock and Ed Byrom to 'local icons' Matt Parkinson and Saqib Mahmood - all of whom are 25 or under. Under the rules for the competition, up to 10 players will be allowed to be retained for the second season in 2021.
"I really like the fact that the teams are planning for the future a lot. You look at our side, you've got a lot of guys that are in their young 20s," said Jos Buttler, who was allocated to Manchester before the draft. "It's fantastic to see all the coaches and staff look at it in that way rather than just the here and now.
"You look at Saqib [Mahmood] and [Matt] Parkinson they could be Manchester Originals players for the next 10 years."