The Hundred: Will Smeed hits competition's first century for Birmingham Phoenix

By Tom MallowsBBC Sport

Will Smeed became the first player to hit a century in The Hundred after smashing a blistering unbeaten 101 for Birmingham Phoenix against Southern Brave at Edgbaston.

The 20-year-old's sparkling ton came from just 49 balls, featuring eight fours and six sixes.

The previous record score in the men's Hundred was 92, set by Smeed's team-mate Liam Livingstone in 2021.

Smeed's effort helped the Phoenix score 176 runs from 100 balls - the highest score in this year's Hundred so far.

With a buoyant and expectant Edgbaston bathed in sunshine, Smeed needed one run to reach the historic milestone with just two balls remaining.

In the end he managed to scramble two runs off the penultimate delivery to send the crowd wild, with the Somerset batter removing his helmet and raising his bat into the air to take in the delirious applause.

Smeed's performance was backed up with the ball by another youngster as 22-year-old Henry Brookes took 5-25 - only the third ever five-wicket haul in The Hundred - to help bowl Southern Brave out for 123 and seal a crushing 53-run victory.

Former England white-ball captain Eoin Morgan believes Smeed's century could be a turning point, with the youngster potentially becoming the standard-bearer for a new breed of cricketer committed to solely playing limited-overs cricket across the globe.

"It's a line in the sand for English cricket," Morgan told Sky Sports. "He doesn't play any first-class cricket, he is predominantly a T20 cricketer and is clearly exceptional in what he does. So it is potentially a new avenue for him into international cricket.

"We've seen in other competitions around the world where domestic franchise tournaments which attract big-name players create domestic heroes. Tonight Will Smeed has become one of them."

Story of the innings

Smeed's extraordinary knock was the perfect blend of power hitting, innovative strokeplay, perfectly-timed acceleration and high-class technique.

After clipping George Garton off his pads for four with the first ball of the match, Smeed played second fiddle to fellow opener Chris Benjamin and the vastly experienced Moeen Ali in the opening stages.

When both players departed it brought Livingstone to the crease and there was an expectation the England batter would soon be crunching the ball around Edgbaston.

Instead it was Smeed who stepped up, the youngster nonchalantly smashing James Fuller for consecutive fours. He then reached his half-century off just 25 balls with a huge six, getting down on one knee to smack a Jake Lintott delivery over the fence.

All Livingstone needed to do was stand and admire.

As Smeed smashed it around, thoughts began to turn towards the elusive three figures - but would he have time?

We knew it was possible. West Indies legend Chris Gayle took just 8.5 overs of the match (53 balls) to hit the quickest 100 in men's T20 cricket (he faced 30 balls), playing for Royal Challengers Bangalore in the IPL in 2013.

But according to statistician Andrew Samson a player reaches a century in 16.4 overs (100 balls) roughly once in every 50 men's T20 matches, so it is hardly a common occurrence.

With 10 balls remaining Smeed was on 83. A single and a streaky four moved him to 88, before another huge six brought up 94 and a new tournament-record score.

Another single moved him to 95, a thick edge brought four and 99 not out.

Edgbaston was on tenterhooks.

The record-breaking moment was not the cleanest shot Smeed will ever hit, and was helped by a mis-field, but no-one in the crowd cared as they erupted in celebration.

"I felt a bit scratchy for most of it," said Smeed afterwards, clearly not getting carried away with the adulation. "I mishit a lot of balls but it's small boundaries and a few dropped over in our innings.

"You try to put it to the back of your mind when you're in the 90s. I've had a couple of close calls so it was nice to get over the line."

Who is Will Smeed?

It was clear from a young age that Smeed was destined to be a high achiever.

At school, as well as playing cricket, he played rugby, football, hockey, tennis and the hurdles. He achieved A* in maths, further maths, chemistry and physics A Level, and is currently part way through an undergraduate Open University degree in maths and economics.

Smeed has never played a first-class match and only has one 50-over match to his name (while also admitting he does not watch much Test cricketLatest news and information 🤡😣🤢 The Hundred: Will Smeed hits competition's first century for Birmingham Phoenix - BBC Sport).

He is part of a new, exciting generation of young cricketers who focus, for now, on the shortest formats having been brought up on a diet of the Indian Premier League, T20 Blast and the Big Bash.

He gave a hint as to his precocious sporting talent on a wider stage when he hit 82 off 49 balls in only his second professional game for Somerset aged just 18 against Gloucestershire in the 2020 T20 Blast.

The following year he became one of the breakout stars of the inaugural Hundred. The youngest player in the 2021 competition, aged just 19, Smeed only came in as an injury replacement but made made the most of the opportunity, hitting three sixes in a 13-ball 36 on his debut against the Trent Rockets, ending the tournament tournament with 166 runs at a strike-rate of 172.91.

England are certainly aware of his talents and he was called up to the Lions squad at the aged of just 17 for a tour of Bangladesh in 2019. Over the winter, he played for Quetta Gladiators in the Pakistan Super League.

He has continued on a rapid upward trajectory since, and his latest record-breaking antics may mean the shouts for a call-up to the senior England squad become too loud to ignore.

Phoenix captain Moeen Ali said: "It's awesome because you want to be performing and winning, but if you're bringing through a few youngsters while you're doing that it's great.

"Obviously Will was good for us last year and Brookesy tonight was fantastic. It's great winning but when you get young players doing well, it's great for experienced players because you don't feel that it always has to be you stepping up."

Asked whether this display could be a launching pad for his career, Smeed was once again humble in his response.

"I don't know. Cricket can be a strange game. It was nice to get the extra few runs as I have been stuck short a few times," he told Sky Sports.

"It's a learning lesson that you don't have to hit every ball out of the middle of the bat. And hopefully the more I play the more I can learn and improve.

"That was a great team performance. Shout out to Brookesy his spell was epic and I feel like I have stolen this (Match Hero award) off him a bit. But there will be confidence in the group again and hopefully we can go on a bit of a roll now."


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