Nasser Hussain has fingers crossed for a successful start to The Hundred

Nasser Hussain admitted he was concerned about the possibility that The Hundred could be affected by Covid but insisted he was looking forward to the new competition.

The new franchise will be the first in the world to start with the women’s tournament, with the Oval Invincibles taking on the Manchester Originals on July 21, with the opening men’s match 24 hours later.

It will do so amid a reopening society, but at a time when coronavirus cases are surging, and although the ECB remains confident its flagship tournament would not be derailed by quarantines and cancellations, Hussain believes it is something which cannot be controlled.

“With everything at the moment, it’s just got to be fingers crossed,” the former England captain told the PA news agency.

“I’m afraid that it’s an uncontrollable in present times as we saw (with the England team recently) and the last couple of days, it just causes and it will cause chaos and there is no answer to that.”

“What you can’t have any more, we can’t get to a stage where you just lock away your cricketers – male or female – in bubbles all round the world while society just tries to move on and open up.

“By just opening up a little bit, just opening up a fraction – it wasn’t fully open, I saw those England boys, they weren’t just allowed to go out on the town or whatever – you get an outbreak of Covid.

“It is a delicate balancing act, but I’m afraid as we saw with the Scotland footballer (Billy Gilmour after his side’s 0-0 draw with England in the Euro 2020 group stages), all sports are going through that at the moment.”

The Hundred will be the first major cricket competition to open with a women's match
The Hundred will be the first major cricket competition to open with a women’s match (Tom Shaw/ECB)

The inaugural edition of The Hundred prides itself on providing an equal platform for men and women, with the marketing campaigns, matchday experience and prize money identical for both editions.

“I think it’s a great message to send out (kicking off with a women’s game),” Hussain said.

“I think hopefully we will get to a stage one day where we won’t make as much of a deal about it. Why shouldn’t we start with the women’s game? They deserve the centre stage and they’re professional and the work that they put in off the field is just as important.

“I think it’s a great way to start the tournament, a great ground, the Oval, ticket sales are brilliant and all we need is a bit of sun and I’m sure both sides will put on a fantastic show.”

Although there is a notable difference in terms of salaries, with male contracts worth between GBP 24,000 and GBP 100,000 while their women counterparts pick up a maximum of GBP 15,000 and as little as GBP 3,600, the concept of double headers is also not for everyone.

It also was not the case for the originally scheduled first edition of the tournament in 2020, where many women’s grounds were due to take place at non-Test venues, and on separate days to the men’s matches.

Hussain added: “First of all, great, you imagine some of the younger players who haven’t played at some of these venues and international venues – and that will be a great occasion for them.

“And playing in front of massive crowds, but you do want women’s cricket to be a sole entity on its own. You don’t want always to be tagged on to men’s cricket in a precursor for the men’s game.”

:: Nasser Hussain is part of the Sky Sports team for The Hundred this summer. Watch every ball of the competition live on Sky Sports The Hundred.