After the inaugural season of the Hundred was postponed, teams were able to retain as many of their men's players as they wished before a re-draft - held on Monday, with the results announced on Tuesday - saw squads finalised, barring one 'wildcard' pick to be made after the T20 Blast group stage. So what did we learn from the draft?
The overseas question
There were seven overseas spots available at the draft, and teams faced a balancing act in terms of player availability: should they pick a star who might only be available for four or five games, or a slightly lesser player who was likely to be available throughout?
The majority of teams leaned towards the first option. West Indies' home series against Australia and Pakistan clash with the start and end of the Hundred respectively, while South Africa players will miss the first couple of games to play their T20I series against Ireland and Bangladesh's series against Zimbabwe is also due to overlap with the season.
Manchester Originals, for example, used all three of their overseas picks on players with partial availability: Nicholas Pooran is likely to play four games, while Kagiso Rabada and Shadab Khan should get around six each. But crucially, they will be able to retain those players in future seasons, when they hope they will be available throughout.
Teams will be able to sign short-term replacements as required, and it is understood that discussions have already begun around who might be available. Oval Invincibles are the only side likely to have all three of their overseas signings - Sunil Narine, Colin Ingram and Sandeep Lamichhane - available for the duration of the season.
"Full availability of overseas players was definitely something we paid close attention to in our squad construction - not only this year but last year as well," Freddie Wilde, their analyst, said. "In a short tournament we recognised the importance of role and strategy stability and minimising the comings and goings of our overseas trio is a massive part of that."
Dan Weston, Birmingham Phoenix's data insights manager, added: "We've got full availability for Kane Williamson, as far as we're aware. Shaheen Afridi's value has increased since the draft - I think he's the best left-arm pacer in the world for this format - and retaining him is a strategy with an eye the future as well. Adam Zampa's stock has risen too since the first draft, so we were pleased to retain both of those players."
Retain or release?
Teams took drastically different approaches with regards to their retention strategies. Trent Rockets, Southern Brave and London Spirit retained 12 of the 14-man squads they had assembled at the initial draft in October 2019, while Welsh Fire released half of their players and Manchester Originals kept only four (excluding those with England Test contracts).
Eleven of the 35 players released were Kolpak registrations, who no longer qualify as local players in English domestic cricket after the UK's exit from the European Union. That affected some teams more than others, while some players were retained on higher or lower salaries following negotiations between teams and their agents.
"We were really pleased with our original picks," Weston said (Phoenix released only three players). "We did some detailed post-draft analysis and thought we had one of the stronger squads. We've identified some players who can grow with the franchise. We were quite aware of how the Kolpak situation might play out too, whereas some teams might not have taken that into account so much."
The Originals' decision to overhaul their squad appeared to pay off, enabling them to pick up two of the top overseas players available in Pooran and Rabada and one of the best remaining English players in Harry Gurney. Other teams were well placed to target particular gaps in their squad, with Phoenix picking up Tom Abell early on to plug a middle-order hole.
Dutch courage after Kolpak drain
The exodus of Kolpak players meant bad news for Dane Vilas, who lost his £125,000 contract with the Originals and was not signed as an overseas player by anyone. Having released Rilee Rossouw, the Invincibles filled their one vacant overseas slot with Colin Ingram, signed as a Kolpak by Welsh Fire ahead of the 2019 draft. David Wiese, Ravi Rampaul, Simon Harmer, Hardus Viljoen, Wayne Parnell, Marchant de Lange, Kyle Abbott and Cameron Delport were the other players with Kolpak status or spousal/ancestral visas to miss out after signing deals in the first draft.
However, the ECB's post-Brexit registration regulations still allow those with settled status in the UK through an EU passport to qualify as local players. That meant Roelof van der Merwe could be retained by Spirit as a domestic player, while Timm van der Gugten, Brandon Glover and Colin Ackermann were picked up by Trent Rockets, Oval Invincibles and Manchester Originals respectively to complete a quartet of Dutchmen. Ryan ten Doeschate failed to find a suitor, most likely on account of his £48,000 reserve price.
Players who missed out in late 2019 but were picked up in early 2021 included Daniel Bell-Drummond, Jamie Overton, Tom Lammonby, Steven Finn, Matty Potts, Callum Parkinson, Ian Cockbain, Josh Cobb and Samit Patel, all of whom pressed their case with strong T20 Blast campaigns last summer.
"Recency bias always plays quite a big part in drafts and auctions," Weston said. "With a few of the more experienced players who were picked - Bell-Drummond, Cockbain, Cobb - they've got the weight of runs and performances over a long period of time. There was a group of players who felt quite hard done by that they weren't picked up in the original draft, who used that as a point of reassessment and were more proactive last year."
For others, a lean Blast season in 2020 proved costly: Ed Pollock, Eddie Byrom, Luke Fletcher, Ed Barnard and Leus du Plooy were among those to lose their deals after initially being drafted. Sam Hain and Jack Taylor both missed out again after failing to convince teams with their form last summer.
"There's always a balancing act between recognising recent form but not overreacting to it," Wilde said. "We definitely had an eye on the future when building our squad - we've got one of the youngest in the comp - and this should enable us to build across a number of years rather than just a single season."
Squads for the Hundred are relatively small, with a core of 14 supplemented by one or two Test players and a Blast wildcard who will be signed shortly before the tournament starts. As a result, five teams have only found space for one wicketkeeper in their squads: Phoenix (Chris Cooke), Spirit (Adam Rossington), Invincibles (Sam Billings), Superchargers (John Simpson) and Brave (Alex Davies).
In that light, it was particularly surprising to see Ben Foakes go undrafted, while James Bracey, Riki Wessels and Adam Wheater may also consider themselves unfortunate to have missed out. All four will be in demand as replacements if any of those sides suffer an injury to their only keeping option, and could be picked as Blast wildcards before then.
"I felt that keepers were over-valued in the previous draft," Weston said. "A few teams picked up several keeping options. Drafts and auctions are always about supply and demand, and the supply wasn't necessarily there with domestic keeping options. You want someone who adds value with the bat in their own right and for us, Chris Cooke is a great hitter at the death against pace."
Who will win it?
Southern Brave look like the strongest side, contingent on Warner and Russell's availability, while Oval Invincibles are not far behind. Manchester Originals, Birmingham Phoenix and London Spirit all have the raw materials to compete, with one or two holes. Welsh Fire will need their seasoned county pros to step up, Trent Rockets' bowling appears to be heavily reliant on Rashid Khan, and Northern Superchargers' attack and top order look strong but their middle-order options are limited.
"Obviously I would say this about a squad I helped build but I think we are one of the strongest sides in the comp," Wilde said. "We focused on building a strong bowling attack which we've achieved and we've managed to do that without compromising our batting, which is very versatile and packed with young and dynamic players.
"As you'd expect in a draft system all the teams have strong suits, but I was particularly impressed by how Manchester re-drafted their squad yesterday. And any team with two of the world's top five T20 players in it will be dangerous; Southern Brave have managed that with Warner and Russell."