Something new in cricket — The HundredFriday, July 30, 2021
BY MARK ARCHER
THE 2020 (er 2021) Olympic Games started in the middle of last week and had its official launch on Friday, July 23, 2021. But, hidden behind the pomp and pageantry of the Games, last week also saw the launch of something 'new' in England that was delayed by one year due to the novel coronavirus pandemic — “The Hundred”.
The Hundred is limited overs, Twenty20 cricket reimagined, and is being run by the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB). It is a professional franchise cricket tournament involving eight men's and eight women's teams located in major cities across England and Wales. The format was invented to attract younger and more diverse crowds to watch cricket, with each match lasting around two and a half hours — a bit shorter than Twenty20.
The tournament gives equal weight to both the men's and women's teams, with almost all the matches taking place as back-to-back double-headers at the same venue on the same day. Additionally, the prize money will be the same for both the men's and women's version of the tournament.
Each game is contested by two teams, each playing a single inning where “every ball counts”. The main features that differentiate The Hundred from other versions of cricket are:
(1) 100 balls are bowled per inning.
(2) Bowlers deliver either five or 10 consecutive balls — the captain decides.
(3) Each bowler can deliver a maximum of 20 balls per game — note the usual term 'over' is not used.
(4) “No-balls” are worth two runs.
(5) The fielding side switches ends after every 10 balls bowled.
(6) The non-striker must return to his/her original end after a caught dismissal – the incoming batsman will face the bowler immediately.
(7) Teams will be able to call timeouts and each bowling side gets a strategic timeout of up to two minutes during which the coach can discuss tactics with players mid-match.
(8) To constitute a match, a minimum of 25 balls have to be bowled to the team batting second, unless a result has been achieved earlier.
There are eight city-based teams competing between July 21 and August 21, 2021 for the inaugural title, ensuring that the competition takes place during the school summer holidays to facilitate attendance by school-aged spectators. In total there will be 32 matches in the league. Each team will play four matches at home and four matches away. This will include one match against every other side and then a second bonus match against their nearest regional rivals.
Once the league table has been completed, the top three teams will then compete in play-offs to decide the champion. The second and third teams in the standings will meet in a semi-final which will be played at The Oval (Kennington, England). The winner of the semi-final will meet the team that finished top of the league, at Lord's Cricket Ground (London, England), to determine who will be crowned champions.
Aside from the opening two fixtures featuring the Oval Invincibles vs the Manchester Originals, all men's and women's matches will be held on the same day at the same grounds. The competition kicked off last week Wednesday (July 21) with a victory by the Oval Invincibles (women) in an opening-night thriller. Then, to rub salt into the wound, the men accomplished the same feat the following evening (July 22).
There were approximately 7,400 people in attendance (believed to be a record for a domestic women's professional cricket match) to witness the opening game at The Oval — many of them young children and families. The spectacle began with a dramatic fireworks display, music by DJs and musical acts, but the thrills (and spills) on the field had everyone engrossed in very attractive cricket.
The visitors from Manchester were the first to bat and set a target of 135 runs for the home team to chase in front of a passionate crowd. The Invincibles appeared to be facing an uphill task at 36 for 4 before the South African pair of Dane van Niekerk and Marizanne Kapp combined for a 73-run partnership. Kapp was brilliantly stumped by Ellie Threlkeld for 38 but captain Van Niekerk hit 56 (from 42 balls) not out to guide her team home to 139 runs with five wickets and two balls remaining. There was dancing in the aisles when the home team secured victory and The Hundred could not have asked for a better opening night.
Public reaction has been split on the newly introduced format but feedback from younger commentators has been largely positive. The league has a mix of professional, semi-professional and amateur cricketers and offers the opportunity to acquire professional experience for many who may not have had a chance otherwise. Of local interest is the drafting of West Indians Stafanie Taylor (Jamaican and current captain of the West Indies women's team), Sunil Narine (Trinidadian) and Carlos Braithwaite (Barbadian and former West Indies Twenty20 captain) into the inaugural staging of the league.
Women cricketers have been particularly enthusiastic about the new format and the decision to run both the men and women competitions in parallel, with the same prize money, allowing many to play professionally for the first time. Additionally, the modernised marketing features associated with The Hundred have gone a long way in appealing to families and younger spectators — colourful team gear with multi-sponsor branding, player name and number on back of jersey, umpires wearing black gear with shocking pink sleeves and neon green accents, website with login functionality, mobile app, online ticket sales, detailed statistics online, interactive quizzes and polls, etc.
The cricket has been enticing and this much-shortened version has attracted a new set of spectators and injected some needed adrenaline into the sport. JustBet offers over 30 betting markets on each game, with extremely attractive odds that are sure to add to the excitement of every ball bowled. Give The Hundred a look, it may just be what cricket needs today.
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