Southern Brave 157 for 6 (Mandhana 55) beat Trent Rockets 130 for 7 (N Sciver-Brunt 49, Taylor 3-20) by 27 runs
Sciver-Brunt gave Brave a brief scare, crashing 18 runs off five balls from Maitlan Brown to reach 44 off 27 balls. She hit another boundary off Anya Shrubsole to leave 57 required off 24, but chipped a return catch to fall for 49 and end the game as a contest.
Salaries in the women’s Hundred were frozen after the 2022 season but the launch of the Women’s Premier League (WPL) in India has transformed the landscape of short-form leagues. Mandhana was retained on a top-bracket £ 31,250 contract by Brave – a wage that is not even one-tenth of the INR 3.4 crore she was paid by Royal Challengers Bangalore.
The women’s game has not yet reached the point of saturation that has left the men’s Hundred struggling for relevance. There are only three top-tier leagues around the world – the WPL, the Hundred and the WBBL – with a handful more operating at a level below.
Some of Australia’s top players have skipped the Hundred this year due to heavy workloads, injuries or both. But as a whole, the standard of overseas players in the women’s competition is high – a sense that is only underlined by Mandhana’s presence. “Along with the WPL, this is probably still up there with one of the best competitions in the world,” said Kirstie Gordon, who bowled tightly for Rockets.
“Initially, I didn’t know two or three bowlers,” Mandhana said. “I had just watched their videos, so it was important for me to see them and how the wicket was playing, because I’ve just come off a tour from Bangladesh and the conditions were pretty different.”
Brave opted not to retain Sophia Dunkley over the off-season, instead backing their complementary opening pair. “Those two at the top, Smriti and Danni, have been exceptional for us,” Shrubsole told Sky Sports. “They were the two we really wanted to retain because they get us off to such good starts: right and left-handers, they can play completely differently and hit the ball in different areas.”
Wyatt chipped Bryony Smith into the off side where Sciver-Brunt took a sharp catch running back from extra cover, but Bouchier – unused by England in their Ashes campaign – came out swinging, hitting 31 off 18 balls with four fours and a slog-swept six.
Mandhana pounced on Rockets’ spinners through the middle phase, skipping down the pitch and lofting Smith’s offbreak back over her head for a straight six, and when she brought up a 32-ball half-century, Brave looked on course to break their own record total in the women’s Hundred of 166.
Rockets’ reply started with a run-out, Smith stitched up by Lizelle Lee as Shrubsole’s leg-side wide diverted down to Kalea Moore at short fine leg, and despite the presence of Sciver-Brunt and Harmnpreet Kaur in the middle order, 158 always looked a tall order.
This was Brave’s 13th win in 15 group games across the competition’s nascent history. The ECB hope that the tournament will prove to have more competitive balance this season, having introduced a draft earlier this year in an attempt to close the gap between the best and worst teams.
Brave’s team looks lighter on paper than in previous years: the England seamer Lauren Bell is missing for the first two games, resting after an exhausting Ashes, and the Australian legspinner Amanda-Jade Wellington was drafted by Manchester Originals after two prolific seasons at the Ageas Bowl.
Taylor, a standby for England’s Under-19 World Cup squad earlier this year, said that Brave coach Charlotte Edwards had kept her advice as simple as possible. “She said, ‘Just bowl straight.’ I just wanted to hit the stumps. It felt so surreal. I’m so excited to be here – absolutely buzzing.”
Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98