The first season of The Hundred is in the books more than three years after the idea of introducing another format into the domestic structure was first pitched by the England and Wales Cricket Board.
Since its inception, the 100-ball competition designed to bring in new supporters to the game has divided opinion sharply among its existing fanbase, so has the past few weeks done anything to alter mindsets?
Here we look at what has and has not worked from the inaugural edition of the ECB’s brainchild.
MISS – Absence of many superstars
For a variety of reasons – including the Board of Control for Cricket in India’s intransigence towards overseas franchise leagues to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic – too many of the game’s most recognisable names were absent. This tournament was supposed to pit the best against the best but can it be considered as such when Virat Kohli, David Warner Ellyse Perry, Kane Williamson and Mithali Raj to name but a few were not among the participants? The ECB can be cut a lot of slack in this area but this is not a problem that besets the Indian Premier League.
HIT – Women’s cricket
Crowds averaging in the hundreds for the Kia Super League were well into the thousands for the women’s matches, helped perhaps by a few double-headers which seemed to go down well. It culminated in 17,116 watching the final at Lord’s – a new domestic record for women’s cricket. As South Africa captain Dane Van Niekerk explained moments after ushering Oval Invincibles’ win in the final: “People came out in droves, they don’t come out in international cricket the way people came out to watch this tournament. I believe that this tournament will just grow from here.”
MISS – Length of games
One of the major reasons a new format was shoehorned into the domestic calendar was its supposed brevity, and that would appeal to broadcasters because it was thought these matches could fit into two-and-a-half-hour windows. In the event an overwhelming majority of matches over-ran. By slicing off 40 balls it was not demonstrably shorter than a Twenty20 Maybe the strategic timeouts require a rethink or teams need to be given the hurry-up in future.
HIT – Visibility
From affordable ticket pricing to a number of games being televised live by the BBC, the ECB has done a lot to try to make sure as many fresh eyes as possible are drawn to their new product. Cricket has been almost exclusively been behind a paywall since the 2005 Ashes, a decision that caused uproar at the time and is still hotly-debated even now. The past few weeks could therefore have given thousands of youngsters their first taste of the sport.
MISS – Pay discrepancies between men and women
While there was the welcome sight of equal prize money on offer between men and women, the fact is there was a significant discrepancy in the salaries earned between the genders. Women pulled in between £3,600 and £15,000 while even the lowest contracted male players could expect a pay cheque of £24,000, with those in the high bracket topping out at six figures. The disparity in salaries is likely to be addressed by the ECB before the next edition.
HIT – The cricket
Whatever anyone’s position before the competition got under way, there is little disputing that it has been good fun. Talents hitherto unheard of or even on the margins such as Will Smeed and Alice Capsey have grasped their opportunity while a couple of those on the fringes of the England side, such as Liam Livingstone and possibly even Tymal Mills have boosted their chances of selection for the T20 World Cup. Regardless of the technical tweaks and the occasional PR clanger beforehand, this was still cricket and should have been enjoyed by anyone watching on.