A GWENT cricket stalwart will be centre stage at Headingley this afternoon after watching on with interest while the Hundred arrived with a bang.

The Welsh Fire get their campaigns under way against Northern Superchargers today with the women playing at 2.30pm and the men at 6pm.

The visitors will aim to transfer hard graft in training to the middle, all of it done under coach Mark O'Leary.

He was supposed to be working as an assistant to former Glamorgan boss Matthew Mott but a promotion came when the Australian opted out because of the coronavirus pandemic.

That means that the Sudbrook stalwart, who has called the shots for Cardiff MCCU and Western Storm, will be in charge of a team featuring star wicketkeeper Sarah Taylor.

O'Leary, known as 'Sparky', hopes he can help the Fire ignite.

"I was going to be assistant coach anyway, which I was delighted with," said O'Leary, whose nephew Scott has been in superb form for Sudbrook this summer.

"I wanted to work with Matthew Mott, so I'm a bit disappointed with that, but to be a Welshman working in Wales, I'm the proudest man in the country."

The coaching staff have done the preparation but it will be down to the players to keep their cool in the rapid new format.

"I'm absolutely buzzing," said O'Leary. "It's been nearly two years since this competition was first planned and I'm really excited.

"We had some preparation games on Tuesday – won one, lost one – and it was really interesting just to get involved in the new format and the players were outstanding.

"It was fast. We finished our game, when we were fielding, with six minutes to spare. If you've got your plans in place and your team know exactly what they are doing, you'll be successful.

"What we're looking at is to have fun and enjoyment throughout the competition.

"It's a short window and I hope that when the players step over the line we'll see some great cricket.

"We have got a really good team. So far the team have gelled really well and I'm hoping they take that forward when it comes to the competition."

South Wales Argus:

England's 2019 World Cup winner Liam Plunkett is ready to prove his skills are as good as ever at the age of 36 when he takes to the field for the men.

The experienced Plunkett will be a key figure for the Fire after he recovered from a calf injury which has limited his involvement with Surrey so far this season.

"I'm 100 per cent and probably as fresh as anyone to be honest," Plunkett said.

"I feel in a really good place. I'm looking forward to The Hundred.

"Having franchise cricket in England is going to be something special and there is a lot of good talent on show.

"It's good for the domestic players to get a chance to show how good they are as well the quality overseas players. I've not played much this year, but I feel ready to go.

"You always want to play leading into a competition, but I'd have been a lot more stressed if I'd been in this position when I was a youngster.

"As you get older, you use your experience more and get less flustered. I do my skill work in practice and feel like I'm where I need to be."

Today's games are on Sky Sports.