By Alex Smith
Sam Billings lead a solid all-round team performance as Oval Invincibles beat Manchester Originals by 10 runs to get the men’s Hundred tournament off to an entertaining start.
Invincibles captain Billings hadn’t played for over two weeks due to a positive Covid test but returned with a classy 49.
The home side set 145 in front of 18,126 at a balmy Kia Oval but despite West Indian Carlos Brathwaite and Calvin Harrison’s 53-late run partnership fell short.
It means that both Invincibles squads leave the capital with opening day victories over Originals, following the women’s exciting five wicket victory on Wednesday.
Having lost the toss and been asked to bat, Invincibles slid to 48 for four, recovered thanks mainly to Billings and then lost wickets again at the end of the innings.
They attempted to utilise Sam Curran and then Sunil Narine as pinch hitters – the former somewhat worked as he smashed Tom Hartley for a huge six but was bowled next ball, while the latter used up five balls for two runs before Fred Klaassen had him lbw.
Jason Roy struck 20 off 12 balls before slapping a full toss to deep mid-wicket, where Tom Lammonby swooped for a low catch, and Will Jacks swept straight to the boundary rider.
But Originals charge was halted by Billings’ intelligent mix of strike rotating and boundary striking, as he added 57 from 37 balls with South African Colin Ingram.
Ingram departed after an unmemorable stay and Laurie Evans lasted just two deliveries as former England quick Steven Finn went bang-bang.
The Invincibles captain successfully reviewed a caught behind decision before accelerating with two massive sixes, but fell for 49 attempting to get over the off-side ring.
Nathan Sowter was bowled although Tom Curran’s quick-fire cameo of 29 got the home side up to a creditable 145.
Phil Salt struck an ingenious Sam Curran slower ball to cover and Reece Topley had Joe Clarke caught behind with his first ball as Originals’ chase began clunkily.
A reason for the Invincibles’ early dominance with the ball was starving Jos Buttler of the strike. The England star only faced 10 balls out of the first 34 balls before he was undone with a big spinner from Narine.
Lammonby extended his arms but cuffed to cover, while Colin Munro added some impetus with 26 before he slogged to long-off.
Well-known hitter Brathwaite and lesser-known all-rounder Harrison combined to created a terrific finale by adding runs quickly – leaving Originals needing 26 from the last 10 balls.
But ultimately, they fell short after Harrison chipped to mid off for 21 and Brathwaite picked out Roy at long on for 37.