Jonny Bairstow and Jemimah Rodrigues star on day of supercharged drama

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It may not quite be cricket as we know it, but the one reassuring comfort blanket for anyone who is struggling with The Hundred and its snazzy graphics, DJ booths and gimmicks is that if all else fails, the stars of the show are still delivering as they so often do.

Take Jemimah Rodrigues, for example. The Superchargers women were in deep trouble against Welsh Fire at one stage of their chase in the first half of this double-header in Leeds. Set 131 to win, the Superchargers were 19 for four and by the end of the first 25-ball powerplay Rodrigues had faced four balls.

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But the Indian superstar seized her moment when it arrived and finished with the highest score in the short history of the competition, a blockbuster 92 from 43 deliveries in a measured yet destructive display to almost single-handedly guide her side to a six-wicket win.

Then it was over to the men, and arguably the most eagerly anticipated game of the competition so far given the star power on show. With Ben Stokes and Jonny Bairstow among those making their Hundred debuts, runs were, you suspected, an absolute given.

That prediction certainly rang true when Bairstow stepped to the crease. The notion of Bairstow playing for the opposition at Headingley certainly was a strange one, but thankfully for the Fire, he replicated his form for club and country here to put his new franchise in control by the halfway point with a total of 173, the highest seen so far.

If anyone could successfully chase that, you felt it would be a Superchargers team including Stokes and Harry Brook. Stokes, as we all know from that unforgettable summer of 2019, enjoys batting at Headingley. But here, at the moment he sent a Jake Ball delivery straight down the throat of Glenn Phillips, many feared the Superchargers’ hopes had disappeared with Stokes as he trudged from the field.

David Willey followed a few balls later. With the Superchargers running out of time, Willey holed out in a shot he may otherwise have not played if he were not under such extreme pressure. You felt the Fire were on their way to victory, thanks in no small part to the 56 from Bairstow and an equally impressive 41 from Ben Duckett.

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But just like in the first match here, a stunning solo effort ensured the match would not fizzle out. Earlier, Rodrigues was the star of the show. The Superchargers were heading for a landslide defeat before the Indian, ably supported by Alice Davidson-Richards, took control of the contest in decisive fashion.

Davidson-Richards was the perfect sidekick for Rodrigues’ superhero performance, rotating the strike as often as she could to ensure her blockbuster partner could do the rest, chasing the Fire’s 130 with plenty of time to spare.

And just as she took control for the women, Harry Brook did the same. In truth, he was always chasing a lost cause, though nobody seemed to tell him. Brook, who went to school in nearby Ilkley, gave a boisterous, rowdy Headingley crowd cause to genuinely believe with a stunning half-century from just 21 balls. Every time the game looked like it was slipping away from the Superchargers, Brook kept the game alive. When Tom Kohler-Cadmore was run out, ending a partnership of 69, Brook kept ploughing away, fighting against the Welsh Fire tide almost all by himself.

But, as you felt would be the case at the halfway point, Brook could not club away with success all night. He was bamboozled when the outstanding Qais Ahmad pinned him back and had him lbw.

Yet the drama wasn’t over. Matthew Potts and Brydon Carse continued to keep the Headingley crowd dreaming. But when Ball returned for the final five deliveries, he finally quelled any nerves by conceding only four runs at the climax.

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