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Australia's quest to retain The Ashes may be put on hold with England's players unsure about travelling
Australia's quest to retain The Ashes may be put on hold with England's players unsure about travelling

The Hundred has been the talking point of English cricket over the past week but news that this winter's Ashes series may be cancelled leads the latest Hit For Six.

This winter's Ashes series is under threat with England players unhappy at Australia’s strict coronavirus rules.

The latest instalment of cricket’s oldest rivalry may be postponed after it emerged the tourists could face four months without seeing their families.

Meetings between players, the ECB and the Professional Cricketers' Association are due to take place — but they might not be enough to save the tour.

England’s multi-format stars are due to leave for Bangladesh in mid-September as they prepare for the T20 World Cup in the UAE, which begins in October.

They will then go straight to Australia for a fortnight's quarantine ahead of warm-up matches and the five-match Ashes.

But the Aussies have imposed some of the strictest restictions in the world throughout the pandemic and only allow 3,000 people into the country each month.

Joe Root may lead a weakened team in Australia
Joe Root may lead a weakened team in Australia

Many Australian citizens have struggled to travel home to see relatives and it is thought there is little chance of the families of the England squad being given any sort of special treatment.

BBC Sport report that one player has already stated he will not travel without his nearest and dearest — and he is unlikely to be the only one.

It leaves the prestigious series in danger of being devalued by a weak England side or postponed entirely until restrictions are eased.

Cricket Australia chief executive Nick Hockley remains upbeat about the prospect of coronavirus protocols not being as tight as they were during the last Aussie summer.

He said: "We’re hopeful that we won’t have to do really tight lockdown bubble type arrangements. 

"But if we’re in that position, that’s something the players I think understand and are getting used to. 

"Fingers crossed we’re going to be back to a level of normality. The protocols will be fit for the particular scenarios we find ourselves in.

"Everyone understands the importance of continuing to play international cricket. So if there are circumstances where people are not able to meet the protocols, that does mean players sitting out. 

"There are several Australian players who haven’t been able to tour, whether through injury, through family commitments and the like, and that is part and parcel of international touring at this time."

The Hundred takes off

Alex Hales' measured 40* saw Trent Bridge rocking as the Trent Rockets won on Monday night
Alex Hales' measured 40* saw Trent Bridge rocking as the Trent Rockets won on Monday night

Unsurprisingly, given the standard of cricketers on show, the opening week of The Hundred has been a success.

The pitches have not been conducive to six-hitting and high totals yet — but there have been exciting games watched by big crowds, mostly in good weather. 

Last night, England outcast Alex Hales (40*) took advantage of a rare Ben Stokes drop to lead Trent Rockets to an unlikely victory over the Northern Superchargers.

Trent Bridge was absolutely bouncing as Hales smashed the ball into the stand to confirm the win with six balls to spare.

The 32-year-old opener said: "It's felt close to international cricket and the buzz around this ground has been unbelievable. It genuinely almost had that feel of an international fixture.”

Despite that buzz, there is little doubt the early winner of The Hundred is the women’s game.

With their matches on TV, playing at the country's biggest stadiums for the same franchises as their male counterparts has seen the ladies take centre stage. 

Nobody has captured the imagination more than Alice Capsey, who played one of the best innings of The Hundred so far last Sunday. 

Capsey scored 59 from just 41 balls for the Oval Invincibles against the London Spirit. 

It would be an impressive knock for anyone on their Lord’s debut in front of 13,537 fans, the largest crowd for a women’s domestic game in modern history.

But the fact Capsey is a 16-year-old currently waiting for her GCSE results, combined with head coach Jonathan Batty having to call her parents for special permission for her to to take part in the tournament, make it all the more special.

Alice Capsey smashed 59 at Lord's at the age of 16 for Oval Invincibles
Alice Capsey smashed 59 at Lord's at the age of 16 for Oval Invincibles

The only comparable story in the men’s competition so far has been that of Birmingham Phoenix's Chris Benjamin.

The 22-year-old batsman blasted 24 from 15 balls in the Phoenix’s opener last Friday to see them past the Spirit.

That innings came five days after making 60 not out on his T20 debut for Birmingham Bears against Northants and just one day after bashing 50 on his List A debut for Warwickshire against Glamorgan.

A quite remarkable rise for both — and exactly the sort of stories The Hundred organisers were dreaming of.

Rolling back the years

All of the best county players being involved in The Hundred was supposed to mean opportunities for youngsters to shine in the Royal London Cup.

While that is true, it has also seen some veterans roll back the years.

None more so than England great Sir Alastair Cook, who hit 92 not out last Sunday to help Essex to a nine-wicket win over Middlesex.

It is seven years since the last of Cook's 92 ODIs and 18 years since he made his List A debut as an 18-year-old for an Essex Cricket Board XI against Esssex.

The insatiable appetite for runs shows no signs of disappearing any time soon.

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21:43 (+00:00)16 Sep 2021 (Thu)