The Hundred is set to lose more big-name players as the competition battles to compete with international schedules and bubble fatigue. Days after it emerged that David Warner, Marcus Stoinis and Sophie Devine had pulled out, ESPNcricinfo understands that Kagiso Rabada is also withdrawing.
Rabada, the South Africa fast bowler who had signed for Manchester Originals, is currently involved in a Test series in the Caribbean. The team is then scheduled to play six limited-overs matches (three T20Is and three ODIs) in Ireland in a tour that finishes on July 25, the same day as Manchester Originals' first home fixture.
While he would then potentially have a few weeks before his next assignment, it is understood Rabada is opting for a break instead of appearing in the Hundred, for which he had been drafted in the £100,000 (US$140,000) bracket.
Lockie Ferguson, the New Zealand fast bowler, is to join Manchester Originals as Rabada's replacement.
An ECB spokesperson said: "We are thrilled to welcome a player of the quality of Lockie Ferguson to The Hundred. It's sad news that Kagiso will not take part this year but the schedule and challenges around international travel due to Covid remain an issue for some overseas players."
The tournament has had some encouraging news, though. While the new government timetable for the lifting of Covid-related restrictions is a blow to the county game - it means that the T20 Blast programme will not offer its usual financial windfall - it might work to the advantage of the Hundred. The tournament starts on July 21, just two days after the anticipated release of restrictions on July 19.
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo