The Hundred: Alex Hartley shares her five ‘ones to watch out for’ in the women’s competition

Emma Lamb, Sophie Ecclestone, Charlotte Taylor, Shafali Verma, Issy Wong
From left to right: Emma Lamb, Sophie Ecclestone, Charlotte Taylor, Shafali Verma, Issy Wong

I cannot contain my excitement for The Hundred.

To be a part of BBC’s coverage of the new 100-ball competition and also be playing for Manchester Originals will be a unique experience.

I can go around the country and commentate on the girls I will be going up against and then take that into my game.

It will be a good opportunity for me to see where my game is at, if I am good enough to play at the world stage and see if I can push for an England place again or if I am happy where I am at and take cricket and commentary as it comes.

I have chosen five girls as my ‘ones to watch’ for The Hundred, they are all superstars in their own right and players who I am looking forward to either facing or playing with.

Shafali Verma – Birmingham Phoenix

Shafali Verma
Verma is the world’s top ranked T20 batter with 665 runs from 25 matches at a strike-rate of 145.19

My first one is an obvious choice, India’s Shafali Verma is just an unbelievable player and Phoenix have bagged themselves an unreal talent.

Verma a new generation of cricketer who will change the way it is played.

I was lucky enough to watch her while commentating on the England v India series this summer and it is scary that she is just 17.

The way she strikes the ball is just a privilege to watch and she adapts really quickly, even if she makes a mistake and gets out it is usually rectified the next game.

Shafali is the future of women’s cricket. She’s fearless and The Hundred will suit her game down to a tee; going out there from ball one and scoring boundaries from the off.

The opener does have her weakness, though. The England girls bowled short balls which she loved to attack and would get caught in the deep.

But I did enjoy her battle with Katherine Brunt in the England series and I’m so excited to see Verma v Brunt part two when Phoenix take on Trent Rockets.

The seamer was getting angrier and angrier, you could see steam coming out of her ears. Verma just smiled and laughed at her as if to say “mate, you’re 36 and I’m 17 so just get on with it” – she has this confidence which I just love about her.

Emma Lamb – Manchester Originals

Emma Lamb
Preston-born Lamb, 23, came through Lancashire’s age-group system and has also been part of the England Academy set-up

Emma is a fellow North West Thunder all-rounder and I’m glad to have her as a team-mate at Manchester Originals.

She has had a fantastic start to the domestic season with three T20 hundreds and a 50-over hundred. Plus she’s consistently taking wickets with her off-spin and in the powerplay.

In the Kia Super League a couple of years ago – if you did well in that you were picked up for the England tour and I think The Hundred could do the same for her.

But being in and out the England and academy set-up for a year, I think she is finally at a place where she will just enjoy her cricket and what will be will be.

Away from cricket, she is quite a relaxed person who goes about her business, knows what she needs to do in and out of her training and is just a general good egg.

The Hundred is the perfect stage for people to go out be themselves and this will be a chance for Emma to prove what she can do against the best in the world.

Sophie Ecclestone – Manchester Originals

Sophie Ecclestone
Left-arm-spinner Ecclestone, 22, has played three Tests, 30 one-day-internationals and 45 Twenty20s for England

I was conscious of not choosing too many of my team-mates but how can you leave the world’s best T20 player out of a list of ones to watch?

I genuinely believe Sophie is the best bowler in all formats of cricket, she knows her game inside out.

She is 22 but has played international cricket for five years – that in itself is incredible.

Sophie made her debut at 17 and missed the 2017 World Cup because she had to go to school. Since then she has missed one tour because of a broken thumb.

Her spin is obviously unplayable at times but she is also underrated with the bat and can really strike the ball hard.

The success on the field has not gone to her head whatsoever, it is almost like she believes it but doesn’t at the same time.

I have been lucky to have seen her mature as both a person and a player. She has gone from a young girl who is really emotional on the cricket field to someone who is so mature about the way she goes about life and cricket.

She has settled down, has a little dog family going on with her fella and she has got balance in her life.

Charlotte Taylor – Southern Brave

Charlotte Taylor
Taylor, 27, was the leading wicket-taker in the 2020 Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy with 15 dismissals in five matches

Charlotte is a player who popped up from nowhere last year.

She was not even in the Southern Vipers main squad last season then came in as an injury replacement and later took 6-34 in the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy final at Edgbaston.

Her little off-spinners are more like little swingers, and she consistently takes wickets.

Players may now be more aware or Charlotte and what she can do, and some may say the surprise factor may be gone, but whenever I check the scorecards she’s always picking up wickets.

Charlotte is still learning but is doing really well, she really epitomises the phrase ‘one to watch’.

When she got player of the match in the final last year she cried and that just shows what it means to her.

One minute she had a full-time job and now plays professional cricket and signed to The Hundred, she should be so proud of what she has achieved.

Issy Wong – Birmingham Phoenix

Issy Wong
Wong, 19, has been in and around the England set-up but is yet to make her international debut

Issy Wong is one of the best people I have ever met.

As a bowler, she’s rapid and all the talk has been about whether she can become the first woman to bowl at 80 miles per hour.

She has only just turned 19 but went to New Zealand with England for their winter tour as a development player so has had a taste of what being an international cricketer feels like.

On fresh, hard pitches is where she will really come to her own. Sometimes at domestic level we don’t play on decent enough pitches for her to feel absolutely rapid but we’re going to be playing on pitches which will zip the ball through.

But she has variation, she has a brilliant bouncer and slower-ball bouncer.

Off the field, Issy can have a massive impact on inspiring young girls to take up the sport, not just from what she can do with the ball but because she’s proud to be different.

She has short back and sides, bleached blonde hair and is true to herself.

That is the most important thing if you’re looking to inspire the next generation of female cricketers; everyone is different and we all come from diverse backgrounds. She is proud of who she is and that is what it is all about.

You may have seen a clip of her solving a Rubik’s Cube in 33 seconds. She is a real character, a legend.

Alex Hartley was speaking to BBC Sport’s Kal Sajad.

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