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Hundred team-by-team previews: Oval Invincibles face tough task to retain title

We take at look at all eight women's squads ahead of the second edition of the competition

Oval Invincibles pose with the 2021 trophy  •  Getty Images

Oval Invincibles pose with the 2021 trophy  •  Getty Images

With the women's Hundred starting on Thursday, topping the bill in the first of this year's double-headers, we run through the eight squads and look at the contenders to follow in Oval Invincibles' footsteps as 100-ball champions.

Birmingham Phoenix

Last season: Eliminator
Coach: Ben Sawyer
Captain: Sophie Devine
Overseas players: Devine, Ellyse Perry, Sophie Molineux, Deepti Sharma
Key player: Sophie Devine takes the reins from Amy Jones after missing the first season and is one of the competition's biggest drawcards. She was the second-highest run-scorer at the Commonwealth Games, marshalling New Zealand to a surprise bronze medal, and should have the licence to attack from the start in a Phoenix side with a long batting line-up and no shortage of all-round ability.
One to watch: Phoenix's signing of 15-year-old batter Davina Perrin was significant, and not just because she will be the youngest player involved in the tournament. Perrin has been involved with the African Caribbean Engagement programme in the west midlands and is already highly rated, featuring for Central Sparks in this year's T20 and 50-over competitions.
Verdict: Phoenix scraped into the knockouts last year with a late charge but should finish in the top three more comfortably this year, with a strong domestic core now supplemented by some of the biggest stars in the global game. Ellyse Perry will have a point to prove after losing her place in Australia's best side. Matt Roller
Possible XI: 1 Sophie Devine (capt), 2 Eve Jones, 3 Ellyse Perry, 4 Amy Jones (wk), 5 Deepti Sharma/Sophie Molineux, 6 Gwen Davies, 7 Georgia Elwiss, 8 Issy Wong, 9 Emily Arlott, 10 Kirstie Gordon, 11 Abtaha Maqsood

London Spirit

Last season: 4th
Coach: Trevor Griffin
Captain: Charlie Dean
Overseas players: Amelia Kerr, Jess Kerr, Beth Mooney, Megan Schutt
Key player: Beth Mooney has been a constant source of runs at the top of the Australia order in T20 internationals for a number of years and her 61 off 41 balls in the Commonwealth Games final proved to be a match-winning innings. Spirit have lost their three highest run-scorers from last year in Heather Knight (injured), Tammy Beaumont (Welsh Fire) and Deandra Dottin (Manchester Originals) so will need their big new signing to fire.
One to watch: Allrounder Grace Scrivens did not bat or bowl in her two appearances last season but has had an impressive domestic season for Sunrisers and should play a bigger role in 2022. She is only 18 but has already been involved with the England A set-up, and the fact she bats left-handed marks her out as a player with an unusual skillset in the domestic women's game.
Verdict: Knight's withdrawal due to injury is a significant blow and Spirit will have to rely heavily on their overseas players if they are to stand a chance of qualifying for the knockout stages. Charlie Dean, her replacement as captain, and Freya Davies will use the tournament as an opportunity to show England they deserve more regular T20 opportunities. MR
Possible XI: 1 Beth Mooney (wk), 2 Naomi Dattani, 3 Sophie Luff, 4 Amelia Kerr, 5 Grace Scrivens, 6 Dani Gibson, 7 Charlie Dean (capt), 8 Amara Carr, 9 Megan Schutt, 10 Freya Davies, 11 Grace Ballinger

Manchester Originals

Last season: 5th
Coach: Paul Shaw
Captain: Kate Cross
Overseas players: Deandra Dottin, Lizelle Lee, Amy Satterthwaite, Lea Tahuhu
Key player: Lizelle Lee retired from international cricket in controversial circumstances last month, alleging that she feared CSA would deny her a No-Objection Certificate for the Hundred unless she lost weight. As a result, she has a point to prove and will hope for more support from the middle order, after carrying Originals' batting line-up last summer.
One to watch: Emma Lamb struggled to make an impact last year, making 135 runs across her seven innings, but has flourished in an England shirt this year in 50-over cricket. She was surplus to requirements for the T20 squad at the Commonwealth Games and can stake a case for inclusion through the Hundred - while her offbreaks will come in useful on spinning pitches at Emirates Old Trafford.
Verdict: Originals should be in contention for the play-off spots but their batting line-up looks top-heavy and they will be hugely reliant on their top three for runs. They struggled to adapt to conditions at home last year and will need to use Old Trafford's slow pitches and huge boundaries to their advantage. MR
Possible XI: 1 Lizelle Lee, 2 Emma Lamb, 3 Deandra Dottin, 4 Cordelia Griffith, 5 Georgie Boyce, 6 Sophie Ecclestone, 7 Kate Cross (capt), 8 Lea Tahuhu, 9 Ellie Threlkeld (wk), 10 Phoebe Graham, 11 Hannah Jones

Northern Superchargers

Last season: 6th
Coach: Dani Hazell
Captain: Hollie Armitage
Overseas players: Alyssa Healy, Jemimah Rodrigues, Laura Wolvaardt
Key player: Alyssa Healy has had a horror run in T20Is over the last 18 months, making 100 runs with an average of 9.09 and a strike rate of 72.99 since the start of 2021. But she remains one of the most destructive white-ball openers in the world on her day, and will be looking to hit her way back into form in the Hundred - not least at Headingley, one of the fastest-scoring grounds in the country.
One to watch: Katie Levick was the leading wicket-taker in the Charlotte Edwards Cup this year and had a solid first season in the competition as part of a spin-heavy Superchargers bowling attack. At 31, she is a veteran of English domestic cricket and will look to play a leadership role in support of new captain Hollie Armitage after Lauren Winfield-Hill's departure to Oval Invincibles.
Verdict: Superchargers started the Hundred with three wins and a no-result last year but tailed off badly to miss out on the knockout stages. Their all-overseas top three is among the best in the competition but they will need their domestic players to step up if they are to be in contention by the end of the group stages. MR
Possible XI: 1 Alyssa Healy (wk), 2 Laura Wolvaardt, 3 Jemimah Rodrigues, 4 Hollie Armitage (capt), 5 Alice Davidson-Richards, 6 Bess Heath, 7 Jenny Gunn, 8 Beth Langston, 9 Linsey Smith, 10 Kalea Moore, 11 Katie Levick

Oval Invincibles

Last season: Winners
Coach: Jonathan Batty
Captain: Dane van Niekerk
Overseas players: Suzie Bates, Shabnim Ismael, Marizanne Kapp, van Niekerk
Key player: Dane van Niekerk was the tournament MVP in its opening season, leading the run-scoring charts and bowling plenty of sets, too. She has not played competitively since November, missing South Africa's tour of England and the Commonwealth Games as she recovered from a fractured ankle, and Invincibles' defence may hinge on her fitness.
One to watch: If you somehow missed her last year, Alice Capsey is still the teen sensation to keep an eye on in the women's game. Capsey will turn 18 on the first day of the tournament - when Invincibles take on Northern Superchargers - and has already been capped by England, as well as scored her first international fifty. Will get stuck in with bat and ball.
Verdict: Invincibles have lost five players who were virtually ever-present last season - two to rivals Southern Brave - and will once again lean heavily on their South African contingent. The absence of Tash Farrant, due to a back stress fracture, could be most significant. Alan Gardner
Possible XI: 1 Lauren Winfield-Hill (wk), 2 Dane van Niekerk (capt), 3 Alice Capsey, 4 Marizanne Kapp, 5 Aylish Cranstone, 6 Grace Gibbs, 7 Mady Villiers, 8 Danielle Gregory, 9 Sophia Smale, 10 Eva Gray/Ryana McDonald-Gay, 11 Shabnim Ismail

Southern Brave

Last season: Runners-up
Coach: Charlotte Edwards
Captain: Anya Shrubsole
Overseas players: Smriti Mandhana, Tahlia McGrath, Molly Strano, Amanda-Jade Wellington
Key player: Australia allrounder Tahlia McGrath has been on the scene for several years, but has recently taken her game to another level - particularly in the shortest format. She made her T20I debut in October and currently averages 93.75 with the bat and 13.66 with the ball. So good has McGrath been that Ellyse Perry has barely had a look in.
One to watch: One of two 17-year-olds to make a positive impression on England's Commonwealth Games (the other being Capsey), left-arm seamer Freya Kemp has the skill - and variations - to thrive on the Hundred stage. Claimed nine wickets at 17.66 for champions Southern Vipers in this year's Charlotte Edwards Cup.
Verdict: The standout side during the group stage last year, Brave fell at the final hurdle - but they will again be the team to beat after coming back with what looks like an even stronger squad. McGrath more than covers for the loss of Stafanie Taylor, while Kemp is a bright talent and the likes of Georgia Adams, Jo Gardner and Paige Scholfield add to their considerable depth. AG
Possible XI: 1 Danni Wyatt, 2 Smriti Mandhana, 3 Sophia Dunkley, 4 Tahlia McGrath, 5 Maia Bouchier, 6 Amanda-Jade Wellington, 7 Anya Shrubsole (capt), 8 Carla Rudd (wk), 9 Tara Norris, 10 Lauren Bell, 11 Freya Kemp

Trent Rockets

Last season: 7th
Coach: Salliann Beams
Captain: Nat Sciver
Overseas players: Mignon du Preez, Alana King, Elyse Villani, Kim Garth
Key player: The loss of Meg Lanning, who has opted to take a break from cricket on the eve of the tournament, will only increase the demands on Nat Sciver. England's star allrounder led the Rockets' run-scoring in 2021 and helps balance a slightly lop-sided XI, while Rockets have also added Kim Garth, the Australia-based former Ireland allrounder, to their squad.
One to watch: Alana King was an uncapped legspinner at the start of the year, but has enjoyed a meteoric rise: Australia debuts in all three formats, a 50-over World Cup winner's medal, gold at the Commonwealths - where she claimed 4 for 8 against Barbados but was denied a hat-trick by Lanning's drop at slip.
Verdict: Rockets were among the sides worst hit by withdrawals in the inaugural campaign and have been hit again by Lanning's late withdrawal. They still look strong in paper, and should be a good bet for the knockouts - particularly if Katherine Brunt continues to rage against the dying of the light. AG
Possible XI: 1 Bryony Smith, 2 Elyse Villani, 3 Nat Sciver (capt), 4 Mignon du Preez, 5 Katherine Brunt, 6 Sarah Glenn, 7 Abbey Freeborn, 8 Kathryn Bryce, 9 Alana King, 10 Georgia Davis, 11 Sophie Munro/Alex Stonehouse

Welsh Fire

Last season: 8th
Coach: Gareth Breese
Captain: Tammy Beaumont
Overseas players: Nicola Carey, Rachael Haynes, Hayley Matthews, Annabel Sutherland
Key player: Welsh Fire sometimes seemed a one-woman team in 2021, which might account for why they ended up bottom. But Hayley Matthews, the West Indies allrounder, could not be faulted for her efforts after scoring 221 runs and taking 11 wickets - well above her team-mates in both disciplines.
One to watch: Katie George was capped by England at 18 but, four years on, has not added to a handful of limited-overs appearances. Injuries have played a part, and the left-arm seamer did not bowl a ball in last year's Hundred despite playing all eight games; an innings of 74 off 43 balls in the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy last month hints at allrounder potential.
Verdict: Fire appear to have recruited well, despite losing Bryony Smith and Sarah Taylor (who took up a coaching role in the men's Hundred). New captain Tammy Beaumont has a point to prove after being left out of England's Commonwealth Games squad, while Fran Wilson was a title-winner with Invincibles. Expectations will be low but they could spring a few surprises. AG
Possible XI: 1 Tammy Beaumont (capt), 2 Hayley Matthews, 3 Fran Wilson, 4 Rachael Haynes, 5 Fi Morris, 6 Nicola Carey, 7 Georgia Hennessy, 8 Katie George, 9 Sarah Bryce (wk), 10 Alex Hartley, 11 Nicole Harvey

Alan Gardner is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo. Matt Roller is an associate editor