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Feature

Adam Lyth hits Hundred ignition as tournament catches fire with first double-header

Men's teams do their bit on the undercard as Oval Invincibles snatch victory in tight finish

Valkerie Baynes
Valkerie Baynes
11-Aug-2022
Adam Lyth blasted a 17-ball half-century  •  Getty Images

Adam Lyth blasted a 17-ball half-century  •  Getty Images

Okay, so on a 31-degree day, we probably didn't need the flame-throwers shooting off with every swing of Adam Lyth's bat, four times in row off Reece Topley in just the third set of five, if you don't mind.
"Whoosh, whoosh, whoosh, whoosh!" A mini heatwave hitting you in the face each time. And that immediately after Faf du Plessis had lofted Danny Briggs over extra cover: "Whoosh!"
Wait. What? They're doing it for fours too? "Whoosh!" We have a pyromaniac at The Oval!
But to complain does smack of first-world problems and to the crowd - including the little kids screaming "fire!" with a thrill rather than terror in their voices - it's all a part of the show, even if they've seen it all before in the Blast.
Also part of the show, though, is Lyth, the 34-year-old left-hander, racing to a 17-ball fifty with yet another boundary, the Hundred's fastest ever half-century, beating Liam Livingstone's 20-ball effort last year.
Those four strokes over the rope, on either side as well as straight down the ground, on balls 11-14 marked the first time as many sixes had been scored in one set of five.
They came en route to Lyth's second half-century in three games for Northern Superchargers after he was also Player of the Match with 51 off 30 in their win over Manchester Originals.
Then Sunil Narine returned for hosts Oval Invincibles and sent those flames rising higher with the wicket of Michael Pepper, slogging to Rilee Rossouw at cover. He put a dampener on Superchargers' innings by conceding just five runs off his double-set of 10 balls.
Less than 24 hours after Will Smeed scored the Hundred's first hundred with an unbeaten 101 from 50 balls in a victory for Birmingham Phoenix over Southern Brave, it looked as though Lyth might fancy the challenge himself. He swung back into action with two sixes in the space of balls from Tom Curran and Matt Milnes to move to 79 off 33 balls but then came his downfall, holing out to Jack Haynes at midwicket off Milnes.
Invincibles squandered some easy chances before Narine came back for his last set of five. He took two wickets in as many balls to remove Adam Hose and the dangerous David Wiese, whose fifty against Rockets on Tuesday was comparatively less rapid-fire (pun may or may not be intended at this point) than Lyth's, coming from 20 balls in a losing cause.
So too was Lyth's fate this time as the on-field action overshadowed any gimmicks in an absolute nail-biter.
Jordan Cox steadied Invincibles from 21 for 3 with 48 but it was Sam Curran who played the starring role to bring Invincibles within reach of overhauling their 158 target.
Lyth slipped up when he juggled - and put down - Curran on 44. But when Dwayne Bravo bowled Curran with what will count as his 600th T20 wicket for a 39-ball 60, his brother, Tom, took over. His back-to-back sixes off Wiese in the penultimate set of five left them one more big hit shy of victory.
They scrambled there via singles, a wicket - Roelof van der Merwe taking a spectacular catch to remove Haynes - wides and two off a drop, deafening roars from the home supporters greeting every moment as they won with three balls to spare.
If it hadn't already, the tournament blazed to life, Jason Roy's first professional outing as a captain ending in victory, despite his second-ball duck, and that was just the curtain-raiser to the corresponding women's teams taking to the middle.
"Amazing game," Sam Curran told broadcasters at the close. "The Hundred almost needed that. The blood's rushing." And it was over to the women to keep the fire burning bright.

Valkerie Baynes is a general editor at ESPNcricinfo