The eagerly-anticipated new Hundred tournament gets underway this week with the first men’s game taking place on Thursday when Manchester Originals visit Oval Invincibles (Invincibles 4/5, Originals 21/10 – Match Betting).

The competition has been in the pipeline for a few years but it’s inception has been delayed 12 months by the pandemic, which may have increased expectancy levels further. Certainly, it’s captured the imagination of the paying public, with Thursday’s clash in London a sell-out.

The Hundred has had its critics. With 100 balls per team, it’s a new, unique idea and, as a new format, which gets rid of the traditional six-ball over structure, some have found it hard to accept.

The organisers confirmed bowlers can use their deliveries in batches of five or 10 with each team getting a total of 100 balls, making it the shortest form of the game, with matches expected to last just two-and-a-half hours.

The idea is to try to attract new fans, with all the action scheduled the the evening and, of course, it will be shown live and on streaming services like YouTube. The fact the BBC will be televising games is also seen as a major plus with terrestrial audiences able to get in on the action.

The eight-team city-based franchise tournament will attempt to give each local area a new team to take to their hearts. It’s innovative, different and it should be entertaining.

England men’s Test players will be able to play two games each in the inaugural season before they switch focus to the five-match series against India.

So it means the likes of Joe Root, Jos Buttler and Ben Stokes will get the chance to showcase their talents for their new respective teams before joining England’s secure team environment for the first Test at Trent Bridge on August 4. No decision has yet been made on whether the England stars can then rejoin the tournament for whoever makes it through to the knockout stages, which are scheduled between the second and third Tests.

The first match sees two of the more fancied teams go head-to-head when Manchester Originals take on Oval Invincibles. Both squads are packed full of talent with the home side boasting Jason Roy and Rory Burns in their ranks, alongside Sam Curran, Saqib Mahmood and Sunil Narine, and backed up by the likes of Will Jacks, Sam Billings and Colin Ingram.

Manchester have Buttler as their main batsman and plenty of other exciting players too with Phil Salt, who caught the eye in England’s recent ODI series with Pakistan, and Kiwi Colin Munro amongst them.

The Originals also have experienced pace bowler Lockie Ferguson, and rising England spinner Matt Parkinson, plus Carlos Brathwaite, Ollie Robinson, Joe Clarke and Steven Finn, while starlet Tom Lammonby is on board as well.

Jamie Overton and Richard Gleeson were ruled out recently through injury, so the visitors brought in Dan Douthwaite and Calvin Harrison as last-minute replacements.

There appears little to choose between these two in the opener and it could come down to a big knock from someone like England openers Buttler (23/10 – Manchester top runscorer) or Roy (23/10 – Oval top runscorer) to swing it one way or the other.

Whenever you bet on Cricket, Betfred.