Ben Jones looks at how the Manchester Originals performed on draft-day, and how their squad is shaping up.
Squad: Jos Buttler, Nicholas Pooran, Kagiso Rabada, Harry Gurney, Phil Salt, Matt Parkinson, Joe Clarke, Jamie Overton, Shadab Khan, Tom Lammonby, Wayne Madsen, Steven Finn, Colin Ackermann, Richard Gleeson, Tom Hartley
Draft Activity: Nicholas Pooran (100k), Kagiso Rabada (100k), Harry Gurney (80k), Jamie Overton (48k), Shadab Khan (48k), Tom Lammonby (40k), Steven Finn (32k), Colin Ackermann (32k), Richard Gleeson (24k), Tom Hartley (24k)
Manchester Originals had the most work to get through on Monday lunchtime, with only five of their full squad confirmed, and none of their overseas. Given that this included two 100k selections – the cream of the crop, one of which they had previously used on Dane Vilas – they were always going to be in a good position. They did not disappoint. Their opening two picks in the top price bracket, Nicholas Pooran and Kagiso Rabada, are both top class talents. Death bowler Harry Gurney and leg-spinning all-rounder Shadab Khan represent solid T20 experience albeit at opposite ends of the age spectrum, a theme amongst their other Blast-specialising pickups as well. Tom Lammonby is a highly thought of young player, while Steven Finn and Richard Gleeson are canny Blast-veterans.
T20 leagues are won and lost by the domestic talent, and Manchester are by no means lacking in this department. They have an outstanding domestic core; Jos Buttler might not be available for much beyond the initial Test window, but Matt Parkinson, Phil Salt, Joe Clarke and Gurney are the spine of a very good local XI.
They have, from their list alone, an aggressive strategy. Their bowlers are primarily wicket-takers (Parkinson, Rabada, Overton) and their batting line-up is top heavy, and very attacking, particularly during the matches when Buttler is around. Add to that the talents of Pooran, a man at the vanguard of attacking intent against the slower bowlers through the middle, and Manchester have built a side ready and raring to go hard, even at the risk of going home.
Their death bowling is covered very effectively. While Rabada is not the most economical in the final overs of the innings, he takes wickets very regularly (a dismissal every seven balls in recent times); for Gurney, vice versa, his death economy below 9rpo for the last five years despite playing at Trent Bridge, one of the highest scoring venues in the world. Add to that the contrast in handedness for their two obvious starting seamers, and Manchester have the clear ability to close the innings out.
In terms of their balance, Manchester are very right-hander dominated. Pooran is perhaps the best left-handed white ball batsman in the world but after that the only left-hander in the squad is Tom Lammonby. In a form of the game likely to see a concentrated version of the match-up dominated world we see in high level T20 cricket from the present day, this is a handicap.
The most obvious knock on from that right-hand dominated lineup is that their top order is very vulnerable to leg spin. Phil Salt gets out every 7 balls he faces from leg spinners, Clarke every 16 balls, and it’s the only bowling type which can even lay a glove on Jos Buttler. Pooran goes someway to assuaging it – averaging 63 and striking at 166 – but one man can only do so much.
Paying that much for Jamie Overton is a gamble. Despite his pace, he has the highest economy in the history of T2o cricket (min 1000 balls), and while part of that is a function of Taunton being his home ground, plenty of other bowlers have plied their trade in that part of the world. The contrast between him and Shadab Khan, brought in in the same round at 48k, is stark. He offers plenty with the bat having batted up the order in the 2020 Blast season, and will likely have to make do with a place as a sixth/seventh bowler in an all-rounder heavy middle order.
They lack a high quality left-to-right spinner, relying on Colin Ackermann who is untested at the highest level, which could prove a gamble. When his strike rate against left-handers is considered – a wicket every 34 balls – then Manchester may lack an obvious attacking option against left-handers with their spin.
Likely XI: Clarke, Salt+, Madsen, Pooran, Shadab, Ackerman, Lammonby, J Overton, Rabada, Parkinson, Gurney
Ben Jones is an analyst at CricViz.