English cricket takes a step into the unknown

Sports | AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE 21 Jul 2021

English cricket takes a step into the unknown with the launch of the Hundred, a brand-new 100-balls-per-side format, today.

Cricket already has several established professional formats at domestic and international level, including five-day Tests, 50 overs-per-side one-dayers and Twenty20 matches.

But even though Twenty20 was pioneered as a professional sport in England, the England and Wales Cricket Board are convinced an even shorter format is needed to attract a new, younger and more ethnically diverse audience to the sport.

The Hundred does away with the traditional six-ball over, although as former England captain Michael Vaughan tweeted: "A reminder that the Hundred will be just a game of cricket. New rules. A few less deliveries ... but the best players playing against the best! What's not to like."

But rather than the format, it is the potential knock-on effects of the Hundred that worry many within English cricket. Rather than rely on the current 18-county set-up, the Hundred will feature eight especially created franchise teams - all featuring men's and women's sides.

Indeed a tournament which one critic has billed as an "attempt to reduce the number of counties by stealth," will begin with a standalone women's match, between the Oval Invincibles and the Manchester Originals at the Oval in south London.

The Hundred was meant to have started in 2020 but its launch was delayed by the coronavirus pandemic. And with Covid-19 still a factor, many of the big-name overseas players the ECB hoped would take part have pulled out.

The ECB was accused of being patronizing when it said the Hundred was aimed at "moms and kids," the inference being cricket was too complicated for them to understand. But having used up the bulk of their 70 million (HK$740.45 million) reserves on marketing the Hundred, the ECB cannot afford for it to fail.

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