A powerful 49 from Sam Billings helped the Oval Invincibles men’s team emulate their female colleagues by seeing off Manchester Originals on the second night of the Hundred.
If a crowd of 18,126 was treated to less tension than the evening before, it had something to do with the pitch, which was used for both games and grew trickier as the game wore on. And that was good news for the home spinners.
West Indian Sunil Narine flummoxed Jos Buttler, who looked out of sorts during his 10-ball eight, while Middlesex leg-spinner Nathan Sowter dismissed Tom Lammonby with his first delivery, before adding the dangerous New Zealander Colin Munro.
Sam Billings fell one short of a half-century but top scored for Oval Invincibles as they beat Manchester Originals
Sam Curran took two wickets to then help the hosts defend their score of 154 for eight
Jos Buttler (L) was dismissed cheaply in the reply before Colin Munro (R) hit a fine 20
Carlos Brathwaite fought hard, but with 19 needed off five balls, he lifted Sam Curran to Jason Roy at long-on for 37, before the Originals went down by nine runs. Ultimately no one could match Billings’s 30-ball effort in the Invincibles’ total of 145 for eight, which included a late flurry from Tom Curran.
‘It’s great to get a first win on the board and follow the ladies’ example,’ said Billings, their captain. ‘The pitch was a bit slow, and we saw spin throughout. But it’s about adapting, and thankfully we got enough on the board.
‘Narine is phenomenal. He’s done it all around the world. Batsmen coming in and facing that is as difficult as anything.’
This was a different kind of evening from Wednesday, when a smaller – but no less engaged – crowd fulfilled the ECB’s hoped-for demographics: more women and children, more ice cream than beer.
Carlos Brathwaite hit two fours and a six in his 37 but could not see the Originals over the line
Dutch international Fred Klaasen (centre) was the pick of the Originals bowlers in the first innings
England stars Sam Curran (left) and Jason Roy (right) were dismissed within the powerplay
On Thursday night, The Oval felt as if it might be hosting Surrey for a game of T20. Groups of young men gathered in advance at local pubs, and the first rendition of ‘Don’t take me home’ echoed round the ground early in the second innings.
No matter: the ECB were still basking in the viewing figures from the previous night: a peak audience on the BBC of 1.6m, plus nearly 350,000 on Sky, and 180,000 on BBC iPlayer and Online.
It all added up to the most-watched women’s game ever played in the UK. Almost 35% of viewers were female. Those numbers have vindicated the decision to delay the first men’s match until the tournament’s second evening.
What sort of coverage the remaining women’s group matches – all double-headers with their male counterparts – will receive is another matter. The organisers’ ambition of equal exposure may be entering a more testing phase.
And after a stuttering start Billings helped lead the fightback as the Invincibles posted 145
Billings fell for 49 but Tom Curran hit an impressive unbeaten 29 to add some valuable runs