The Hundred finally launched with a successful opening night here, where the local team, the Invincibles, were roared home by a surprisingly partisan crowd, in victory against Manchester Originals. With a name like that, it is probably for the best that Oval Invincibles won their very first game.
The official attendance was 7,395, and it seemed there were nearly that number of ECB employees wearing Hundred-branded black shirts. Many of the tickets were given away, not sold, but that does not matter if they come back for more.
The early signs are that they will. The ECB say they sold — not gave away — 11,000 tickets to the Hundred yesterday, the most on a single day since they went on sale. That should be of little surprise given the strong viewing figures, thought to be north of two million across the BBC and Sky. Promote cricket, whatever the format, and people will want more of it.
To the naked eye, the crowd was younger, more female, and from more diverse communities than we have seen before. As the game reached its exciting climax, the defining sound was young girls cheering excitedly. At the innings break, the queues for ice cream were longer than the bars. Word is that the beers sales back that up.
Not everyone was a Mum or a kid, the audience ECB have so brazenly chased. There were curious sports fans taking advantage of dirt cheap tickets to take a look. Young blokes chewed the fat about women’s sport over a beer in a way they might not have before.
Kate Cross, captain of Manchester Originals, said she “couldn’t come off a cricket pitch and be more pleased with a loss”, said she could not hear her fielders on the boundary because it was so loud, and described the atmosphere as “electric”.
The in-stadium experience is good, and is helped by a decent app. The big screen could focus on the score a little more, and a bit more hype for the individuals would be handy — it could easily have escaped the uninitiated that Sophie Ecclestone, as the top-ranked bowler in the world, or Dane van Niekerk, as South Africa captain, are actually quite a big deal.
Most of the highlights came on the pitch, which is a good sign. Harmanpreet Kaur’s sensational innings of 29 from 16 balls gave the game impetus, while Ellie Threlkeld’s superb legside stumping of Marizanne Kapp lit up the second innings. Van Niekerk stole the show, though, with her innings leading the Invincibles to victory.
The game was not too different from T20, although the changes were immediately obvious when Kapp — who started with a wide — bowled the first 10 (legal) deliveries of the match.
The moment that kicked the whole event into life, though, was not the aggressive fireworks display or any brilliant play. It was when one of the many lavishly-paid influencers roaming the stands handed his microphone to a young girl and she belted out – note perfect – a rendition of See You Again by Wiz Khalifa. The crowd gushed, and the players clapped. Before they took the field for the second innings, the Originals fielders danced away to Becky Hill, the only contestant on The Voice UK to have a No1 single.
One fun night is just the start. Tonight, it is the turn of these two teams’ men’s outfits, with Jos Buttler and Jason Roy teeing off. The game is sold out, and it will be interesting to see if the crowd is similar.