|Venue: Edgbaston Date: Friday, 23 July Time: 15:00 BST (women) & 18:30 (men)|
|Coverage: Live radio commentary on BBC Radio 5 live sports extra & text commentary with clips and analysis on BBC Sport website and app.|
The Hundred continues on Friday and with it arrives a big heap of stardust.
Shane Warne, the legendary former Australia spinner, enters the spotlight as men’s coach of London Spirit, who begin their campaign against Birmingham Phoenix at Edgbaston.
Warne is known as one of the greatest bowlers in history, tooled with one of the sharpest cricket brains around, and now steps up in his first real coaching role.
He does so in an intriguing partnership with Spirit captain Eoin Morgan, the man who has revolutionised English cricket as its men’s World Cup-winning captain.
“Expect the unexpected,” Warne told BBC Sport.
“Expect things different but expect some entertaining cricket from London Spirit, that’s for sure.”
Warne’s only previous coaching experience came in 2008 when he led the Rajasthan Royals to the title in the inaugural Indian Premier League while also captaining the side, long before it became the superstar-packed machine it is today.
“There won’t be any hairdryer treatments in public but there might be a few behind the scenes that is for sure,” the 51-year-old laughed, before hastily adding the words “hopefully not required!”
A partnership between Warne and Morgan looks ready-made for attacking cricket.
Warne, often described as the best captain Australia never had, is one most aggressive players to have played the game – just ask any England batter from the 90s or early 2000s.
While Morgan spent a recent period in Covid-19 isolation, Warne was on the other end of the phone as the pair plotted their route to success.
“He doesn’t like team meetings and doesn’t like those silly ladders at warm-ups,” Warne said.
“We are both on the right track there.
“We have been going through scenarios – good and bad – asking his thoughts on certain situations and whether he has thought of this or that.
“That is my job to challenge.
“I will give them [the players] options, what I think I would do and suggestions, but at the end of the day they will make the final call.”
And cricket’s newest format offers plenty of opportunity for tactics to come to the fore.
Innings are shorter while the possibility for bowlers to deliver 10 balls in a row adds a new dimension.
“Someone could bowl 20 balls out of 25 in the powerplay,” Warne said. “Someone could bowl 20 balls out of 25 at the end.
“When there is not much between the teams it can come down to the way you think and the right fields.
“We have the best white-ball captain in world cricket so have an advantage there.
“Hopefully I can help out with some of the tactical things and try and inspire them to play well.”
Warne batted away further attempts to prise out further detail on those tactical plans but he did give away one teaser.
“Just watch out for Mr Nabi,” Warne said of Spirit’s Afghanistan international all-rounder Mohammad Nabi. “He might play a different role than the one people are expecting.”
At 36, Nabi, primarily a middle-order batter who bowls off-spin, is one of a number of senior players in a squad Warne admits has gone “under the radar”.
They will be hurt by the loss of Zak Crawley, Dan Lawrence and Mark Wood to England Test duty after two games, but have Morgan, Pakistan left-arm fast bowler Mohammad Amir, plus ex-England internationals Joe Denly, Ravi Bopara and Jade Dernbach.
At the other end of the scale is 19-year-old Middlesex bowler Blake Cullen, one of the most exciting young English talents. Keep an eye out for Australian Josh Inglis, the leading run-scorer so far in this year’s T20 Blast.
“We are in pretty good shape,” Warne said.
“Everyone has a good team. It will come down to execution, strategy and tactics and sometimes making the right decisions at the right time.”
Could that be where Spirit have one big advantage?