Northern Superchargers v Oval Invincibles: Appeal of The Hundred will only increase, says Lauren Winfield-Hill
LAUREN WINFIELD-HILL says that The Hundred has exceeded her expectations and predicted that the tournament has still to realise its true potential.
The Northern Superchargers captain admitted to being “overwhelmed by the whole occasion” in her side’s first game against Welsh Fire at Headingley.
Superchargers were watched by more than 5,000 fans as they opened their competition with a six-wicket victory, going on to beat Trent Rockets by 27 runs at Trent Bridge before their third match against Manchester Originals at Old Trafford was washed out.
“It’s completely exceeded my expectations, to be honest,” said Winfield-Hill, whose team face Oval Invincibles at Headingley today.
“It’s been unreal. The atmosphere has been amazing. The first game I was quite overwhelmed by the whole occasion – the atmosphere, the entertainment factor, the music, the crowds. It’s been awesome, fantastic.”
As captains and players adjust to the new format, working out what a good total is, Winfield-Hill is adamant that the competition – for all that she is enjoying it – has yet to reach its full height.
“I don’t think we’ve seen the competition ‘go off’ as it has the potential to do, in terms of the real true fireworks,” she added. “I think people are still finding their feet in terms of getting the balance right in games, and of course it all depends on how your team sets up.
“So I don’t think we’ve seen the real firecracker potential of what the tournament does have, because people are still dipping their toes in terms of how to play.
“I think as we play more there’ll be potential for a bit more firecracking, as it were, but, at the minute, people are just trying to find a way to win games.”
Winfield-Hill is especially enjoying the one club feel of Northern Superchargers, saying that the women’s and men’s teams dovetail as one.
Helped by eloquent and engaging figures such as Winfield-Hill herself, the ladies’ game is on a pronounced upward curve, its momentum unstoppable.
“As far as this competition is concerned, it starts with the mentality really,” said the batter/keeper, who turns 31 next month. “It’s not the Northern Superchargers women’s and it’s not the Northern Superchargers men’s. It’s not two separate entities. It’s ‘we are the Northern Superchargers’.”
Winfield-Hill cites the example of the players’ mutual support.
“It’s been great that we’ve had the lads watch our games, and we get messages from (coach) Darren Lehmann and the boys or whatever, saying ‘Good luck’, ‘Well played’, etc,” she added.
“We stay on to watch their games too, so there’s that real one club feeling, that one team mentality. I think this competition has shown the way with that and that’s definitely been a big success.”
At present, with all the games barring the standalone women’s fixture that opened the tournament, followed by the men’s first match, being played as double-headers, the women are taking the afternoon slot and the men, so to say, are headlining in the evening.
Winfield-Hill likes the double-headers, although the powers-that-be could perhaps look at switching them up occasionally going forward so that the women can play some games in the evening. Ultimately, Winfield-Hill thinks that the women’s competition could work as a standalone event.
“There’s benefits to both,” she said. “I enjoy the double-headers. I enjoy that atmosphere of the men supporting you and you supporting them, and that one team feel.
“But if the women’s game continues to go on the same progression, then it’s a definite product on its own, and as the audience grows, then those people that would have gone to a double-header would then also go to a standalone fixture.”
Winfield-Hill has detected a welcome change in the nature of double-header crowds.
“I’ve always felt, in the past, that when we played double-headers there was barely anyone in and then the last five overs you’d get loads of people coming in for the men’s game,” she said.
“But when we played at Headingley (against Welsh Fire), it didn’t feel like it was empty and then it was full – it felt like actually there wasn’t that much difference.
“You didn’t have that feeling where you looked around and thought to yourself that they’re all coming in now because it’s the last few balls of our game.
“With this competition, there’s a genuine feeling that you’re on a level playing field. We feel a lot more valued and a lot more excited about what we’ve got coming up.”