Pakistani pace pair Shaheen Shah Afridi and Haris Rauf, all-rounder David Willey and England batter Sophia Dunkley are all heading to Cardiff for this year‘s Hundred as Welsh Fire rebuilt their under-performing teams at the 2023 draft.
Fire finished bottom in the men’s and women’s tournaments last year and cleared the decks during the recent retention period, retaining skeleton squads as they dominated a trolley dash that was carried live on television for the first time since the inaugural draft in 2019.
The men’s side landed three overseas stars, with the electric Afridi signed for £100,000 before new head coach Mike Hussey splashed another £75,000 on his compatriot Rauf. The duo are both capable of clearing 90mph and were picked up despite some uncertainty over their international commitments during the tournament.
New Zealand’s six-hitting specialist Glenn Phillips is also bound for Sophia Gardens, while Somerset captain Tom Abell and the experienced Willey both landed maximum £125,000 contracts and will become immediate dressing room leaders at a team that looked rudderless during a winless campaign in 2022.
“It’s pace like fire for the Welsh Fire with Haris Rauf joining Shaheen and then you throw in Phillips, who smashes it out of the ground,” enthused former England captain Nasser Hussain on Sky Sports.
“They are looking much, much stronger and have made some really good signings. They’re starting again and they’re doing it with pace and power-hitting.”
In the women’s competition, Dunkley was signed up as the Fire’s first pick in the top band of £31,250. Gareth Breese’s side initially made moves for Kiwi Sophie Devine and England opener Danni Wyatt, but they headed back to Birmingham Phoenix and Southern Brave respectively via the right to match option.
Dunkley was not among Brave’s four retained players and represents something of a coup as one of the country’s most bankable white-ball players.
She will be joined by South Africa’s tearaway quick Shabnim Ismail, a two-time tournament winner with Southern Brave.
Welsh Fire women’s captain Tammy Beaumont told Sky: “I’m really ecstatic with the team we’ve put together.
“I’ve already had a couple of texts from the girls saying they are ready to get going. With our top two picks we wanted one gun overseas player and one gun England player. Sophia Dunkley is one of them, she has gone through the roof recently in terms of her performances, and Shabnim was number one on our list to fill that other spot. As captain if I need a wicket I can look around and know she’s going to get me one.”
Mitch Marsh picked up a £125,000 payday from London Spirit while his fellow Australians Adam Zampa and Marcus Stoinis went unsold having gone in at the top reserve.
Tom Kohler-Cadmore (Trent Rockets) and Tim David (Southern Brave) returned to their previous sides in the highest bracket, Leus du Plooy over-performed on expectations by joining David at Hove and Test opener Ben Duckett got his desired move to Birmingham Phoenix.
In the £100,000 round, England seamers Olly Stone and Reece Topley went to London Spirit and Northern Superchargers respectively, while the Headingley-based outfit also shelled out for Tom Banton and Kiwi all-rounder Michael Bracewell.
Among the best value picks in the lower £40,000-50,000 bands were Jamie Smith (Birmingham Phoenix, £50,000), Stevie Eskinazi (Welsh Fire), Ihsanullah (Oval Invincibles) and Sam Hain (Trent Rockets).
Kate Cross moves across the Pennines after Northern Superchargers took her from Manchester Originals, with Laura Wolvaardt going the other way. Harmanpreet Kaur brings star power to Trent Rockets women after her £31,250 base was met but fellow India star Jemimah Rodrigues went unsold at the same reserve.
Former South Africa captains Lizelle Lee and Dane van Niekerk, both recently retired, signed with Trent Rockets and Oval Invincibles, while London Spirit snared England leg-spinner Sarah Glenn for £25,000.
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