Manchester Originals 201 for 3 (Buttler 82, Salt 47) beat Southern Brave 196 for 1 (Allen 68, Vince 56*, Conway 51*) by seven wickets
The scoring rate only went up with the fielding restrictions off, Buttler cleaning out Craig Overton for his first six down the ground before Salt drilled two more brutal hits into the crowd in a set costing 21. Salt fell to his next ball to depart for an incendiary 47 off 17, Vince roaring in celebration after scooping a low catch in the covers as Mitchell Santner’s introduction paid off – but Buttler kept the pressure on by hitting Santner into the crowd before new batter Max Holden carved and scooped George Garton for sixes from his fourth and seventh balls.
Originals had raced to 100 from 41 balls, equalling their own record from the 2022 edition, and they were 115 for 1 at halfway. The carnage continued for Brave’s seamers as Jordan was struck for 17 in the next set, Buttler bringing up a 26-ball half-century, and the Originals captain took back-to-back boundaries off Tymal Mills before the competition’s leading wicket-taker ended Holden’s cameo with a slower delivery.
Buttler’s calculated assault continued as he crashed Rehan Ahmed for two more sixes during a run of ten consecutive balls from the teenaged legspinner, at the end of which Originals needed 26 from 20. The requirement was down to 17 when Buttler finally miscued one into the night sky to be held by the scrambling Rehan and Laurie Evans’ emphatic blow into the crowd off Mills kept Originals on course.
Buttler, England’s white-ball captain, has been a vocal backer of the tournament in recent days and extended his lead at the top of the run-scoring charts. This has been his first full season of involvement and he will now lead his side out at Lord’s against Oval Invincibles on Sunday, looking to go one better than last year.
Following the abandonment of the early game, and with the threat of more rain interrupting proceedings in south London, Buttler had no hesitation asking Brave to set a target. He admitted afterwards to being a “bit disappointed” with his side’s effort with the ball – which included conceding 20 extras – but added: “Once we got that momentum it was hard to stop us.”
There was swing and seam movement for the Originals opening pair of Richard Gleeson and Josh Little, but although the Brave openers only managed four scoring shots in the first 15 balls, they still had 24 on the board through a combination of leg byes and wides – which had increased to 37 without loss after the powerplay.
Allen’s first boundary came off a thick edge over slip, and he then needed assessing by the physio after playing a rolling ramp shot straight into the grille of his helmet. He launched Little for a sweetly struck six over deep midwicket, while Conway got going by chipping his fourth ball over cover for four, but there were few other examples of timing during a scratchy start.
There were back-to-back boundaries for Allen in the eighth set, and the New Zealand opener then took Calvin Harrison for four and six, followed by another straight smash over the ropes off Zaman Khan to bring up a 31-ball half-century and put Brave on the front foot at the halfway stage of their innings on 84 for none.
That was to be Originals’ only breakthrough with the ball, but they nevertheless managed to keep on top of the scoring through the next three sets. Vince also made a slow start, eking out six runs from his first ten balls, but a flicked six off Zaman seemed to bring him to life. Off his next 12 balls, Brave’s captain smoked 40 runs, with Originals paying the price for missing the cut-off and only being allowed four men out for the final 11 deliveries.
Conway had batted throughout the innings without ever dominating, reaching a 37-ball fifty during the final set, as Brave notched the highest Hundred total at The Oval – only for Buttler’s men in black to produce an extra-terrestrial response.
Alan Gardner is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo. @alanroderick