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Steven Smith, Mitchell Starc released as the Hundred teams finalise retentions before draft

Williamson, Russell, Maxwell commit to 2021 season as ex-Kolpak players miss out

Matt Roller
Matt Roller
Steven Smith and Mitchell Starc have been released by Welsh Fire  •  Getty Images

Steven Smith and Mitchell Starc have been released by Welsh Fire  •  Getty Images

Steven Smith and Mitchell Starc have been released by Welsh Fire in the Hundred after signing top-band £125,000 ($170,000 US) contracts to play in its postponed first season.
The ECB announced a full list of men's retentions on Wednesday ahead of this month's player draft, with Glenn Maxwell, Kane Williamson and Andre Russell among the overseas players re-committing to the competition for 2021. Teams had been permitted to retain as many players as they wished at a mutually agreed salary band and the majority opted to roll the bulk of their picks over, with the notable exception of Manchester Originals who will make 10 of the 35 picks in the draft after opting for an overhaul.
Neither Smith nor Starc has been retained by the Fire, who made Jonny Bairstow one of their top-band picks after he lost his Test central contract at the end of last year. Salaries in the competition have been cut by 20%, leaving top earners on £100,000 for the season, and with question marks over Smith and Starc's availability due to Australia's white-ball tour against West Indies overlapping with the start of the competition in late July, neither player has been retained. Smith's release is his second in as many weeks, after Rajasthan Royals opted not to retain him ahead of the upcoming IPL auction.
Several Australian players have been kept on despite the possibility of a clash of dates, with Maxwell, Aaron Finch, Chris Lynn, Marcus Stoinis, D'Arcy Short, Nathan Coulter-Nile and Adam Zampa all retained by their respective teams ahead of the draft, which will be held behind closed doors between the second and third India-England Tests. Picks will be released throughout the day on February 23.
As revealed by ESPNcricinfo, several consistent domestic performers have not been retained, including Saqib Mahmood, Tom Abell, Ravi Bopara, Harry Gurney, Ben Foakes, Danny Briggs and Richard Gleeson. Some had offers on the table but decided to try their luck in this year's draft instead, while others were not offered contracts by the teams that had picked them up in the initial draft in October 2019.
The expiration of Kolpak status has been a major factor in retentions, with all 12 of the 'non-qualified' players who had been signed as locals in the initial draft losing their contracts rather than moving to overseas deals - including Dane Vilas, a surprise £125,000 selection by the Originals. Roelof van der Merwe has been retained by London Spirit, but does not count towards their overseas quota (three players per playing XI and per squad) on account of his EU settled status.
The Originals will have three of the first six picks in the draft, including the first one of the night with the pick order reversed from 2019. South Africa and New Zealand players are likely to be sought-after on account of the gap in their international schedule, which could mean Quinton de Kock, Trent Boult and Kagiso Rabada are among the top-band picks in the draft.
Trent Rockets, Oval Invincibles and London Spirit are the three most settled teams ahead of the draft, having each retained 12 of their initial 14-man squads, while Northern Superchargers (five picks), Welsh Fire (seven) and Manchester Originals (10) will be the busiest teams. Each team will complete their squad by picking a 'wildcard' player after the T20 Blast group stages.
23 more women's players have also had their involvement confirmed, headlined by South Africa captain Dane van Niekerk (Oval Invincibles), New Zealand allrounder Amelia Kerr (Southern Brave), left-arm spinner Alex Hartley (Manchester Originals) and fast bowler Issy Wong (Birmingham Phoenix).
The Hundred, the ECB's new 100-ball competition, is due to launch in late July, directly after England men's limited-overs series against Pakistan, with the inaugural Finals Days taking place towards the end of August.

Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets at @mroller98