Last Wednesday I went to the dentist. On the same day, The Hundred started.
Why are these two events related? Well, I approached both of them with a sense of complete dread. I loath dental visits with a passion and to regular readers of this website my feelings on the Hundred are no secret. After both events I experienced the same feeling, that of pleasant surprise that the event had not been as awful as I imagined it would be. In fact it had been quite tolerable, but it was still not something that I would choose to experience again.
First let’s start with the positives about the Hundred, for I was determined to set aside my usual curmudgeonly cynicism and find some.
It is a gamechanger for women’s cricket. It was wonderful to see so many young female fans at the opening night at The Oval. It is hugely significant for female cricketers in this country to have the chance to play in front of such a sizeable crowd, as well as the opportunity of equal exposure on Sky and the BBC and parity on prizemoney with the men. Maybe now more people will come to realise what a truly outstanding and dignified leader Heather Knight is, the Gareth Southgate of cricket, perhaps. Certainly, she is a more successful and impressive captain than many of her male counterparts.
I watched the opening game of the men’s Hundred at the same venue the following night. The BBC coverage and the pyrotechnics certainly did give it that “big event” feel that the ECB have been craving. There was clearly a fission of excitement in the crowd at something new. The cutaways to interviews with You tubbers and singers also worked well.
Of course, a lot of this went over my head. As a 30 something man I have no idea who “Chunkz” is, but I am reliably informed that young people know him well. Real stars seem to have been booked to perform at some of the games as well. Lady Leshurr might not be familiar to many cricket fans but, as a teacher, I can tell you that my teenage students have been enthusiastically playing me her music for years.
The game itself does feel more like cricket than I thought it would, although it still feels like a lower quality version of T20.
This leads us nicely onto the negatives of the Hundred, of which there are many.
The actual game differs so little from what we already have that one wonders what the point was in creating it? It is T20 with less strategy and intelligence. Getting rid of overs needlessly alienates those who already follow the game, particularly when they are replaced with “blocks” of 5 balls that are overs in all but name. As with much of the new competition it just feels like change for the sake of change.
The team names are still hopelessly vague and derivative. Those who have championed the idea of city based sides for many years will feel very let down by “Southern Brave” and “Northern Superchargers”. To support a team, fans need to feel a connection with it. Who can feel a connection with words such as Southern or Northern when each one encompasses half the country?
If the ECB were going to create city franchises, something which I do not believe was necessary in the first place, then they should have gone the whole hog and named all the teams after actual towns, as they do in football. Northern Supercharges play at Headingley so they could have become the Leeds Superchargers.
There might even have been a team called Newcastle who played in black and white and were captained by Mark Wood and coached by Steve Harmison. A side named Bristol could have appealed to some in the West Country whilst Southern Brave play their home games at the Ageas Bowl so could easily have been labelled Southampton Brave. This is all before we get on to the preposterousness of a side called Welsh Fire being captained by a Yorkshireman in Jonny Bairstow.
The Hundred also frustrates due to the almost North Korean-like zeal of the broadcasters to deny even the possibility of there being anything negative about it. When Isa Guha and her fellow presenters on the BBC enthuse about the “amazing “and “incredible” size of the crowd at The Oval, which was, whilst impressive, certainly not at full capacity, it is worth remembering that Surrey regularly manage to sell out the ground for T20 Blast games, despite charging higher ticket prices. It is strange how the BBC do not feel the need to enthuse over that.
The ECB, however, will do everything to ensure that their new baby is a success. Many of the tickets for the opening night were given away free. It will be interesting to see how many of those fans will return once they have to pay for the experience.
The much-trumpeted TV viewing figures may also be misleading. How many people were just tuning in out of curiosity and will drift away once the novelty value has worn off, one wonders?
I, myself, having sat through the opening nights, felt very little desire to view any more games as the competition progressed. Instead, I preferred to watch the county Royal London one-day cup being live streamed on You Tube, as Northamptonshire’s bowlers were smashed around the park by Glamorgan.
After all, just like my trip to the dentist, once it was over there was no need to experience it again.
Forget about “easier to understand” – it’s T20 with the simplicity removed.
Maybe we should learn to think of it like pop music and classical music. They both have their place and are enjoyed by some but not all.
I’m at Scarbados for the 50 over competition and there are more fans here than we’re at Sophia Gardens last night. In an Instagram interchange with the official 💯 profile they actually told me that the crowd at Sophia Gardens ‘was low but not too low’. With that as a benchmark, ECB will be able to claim a roaring success.
The ECB are aiming for an average of 60% crowds. That’s setting the bar very low considering the unprecedented marketing budget, not to mention that thousands of tickets have been given away for free.
60% Blast or capacity?! 🤣
Hi John. I was at Guildford for depleted Surrey vs Notts. Weather effected to 30 overs a side, but cracking entertainment. Surrey scored 311 off 30 overs! Notts made a great chase eventually losing by 33 runs. Lots of correctly played 6s proving you don’t need to slog.
Full house. All tickets sold a week ago.
ECB stick that up your **se.
Good article Billy. Thanks for putting yourself through the H******d experience on our behalf. I, for one, do not expect you to do it again – you have already gone beyond the call of duty!
There’s much to disagree with Billy Crawford’s scornful opinion of The Hundreds but for the sake of brevity I’ll concentrate on just a few points.
First, the Big Picture. The new format has attracted thousands of new cricket fans which can only be a good thing. End of. My wife and I took our grandkids to Trent Bridge and they loved it. The in-house production was great and even us oldies in our seventh decade rocked with the music, along incidentally with the ‘old fogey’ stewards. We all found the cricket fast-moving and exciting.
As he recognises, through the new competition, Women’s Cricket has taken a huge step forward thanks to terrestrial exposure. I’ve been watching the sport for sixty years and now have a new respect for the women’s game.
He clearly doesn’t ‘get’ inter-city rivalry, particularly in the North. The ‘vague and derivative’ team names allows people like us to hop on board a particular franchise. Surely he realises that calling the Northern Supercharges the Leeds Superchargers would serve to alienate everyone outside of that city. A marketing own goal. I live in Sheffield and whilst I’d be happy to go to Headingley to watch Yorkshire or Test Cricket, there is no way I would support a Leeds team.
He was dreading going because of the changes, comparing it to the dentist, then bemoaned.. the lack of changes. It’s a shame he’s decided not to watch any more games – he’s missing some cracking, innovative and exciting cricket.
The big question is why not just do this for a revamped T20 competition.
Why do an almost T20 variant. Why just not stay with an established version?
Yes this is what I don’t get either other than the control issue by ECB of course. All these positives that have been articulated and even the off field razzamataz that the new watchers like can be applied to T20. Data suggests the length of the games in some instances go longer than T20 so that is a bit of a red herring too.
Well your obviously having a bit of a laugh? Ask the question: What is the point of a diluted Play Station version of T20 when there is already a highly successful competition in the Blast? Indeed if played now it would have filled stadiums with people paying upwards of £25 a pop instead of half the spectators on freebies. And the One Day Cup could have been played last month with a full contingent of players who have been effective poached for this rubbish. Answer: it’s an ECB vanity project, effectively crickets version of HS2 on speed that is verging on bankrupting English Cricket if it goes down the toilet, which it ultimately will.
Look, I’m pleased your family enjoyed it, but it’s a shame that there won’t be any cricket clubs left for those who want to pursue the game because the custodians of the sport have are in the throws of going bankrupt. The signs are obvious in what this is doing to the game, just look at our Test team. The 100 adds nothing to what the Blast is actually doing.
Franchise cricket. Means nothing to fans.
I’m glad that some people are enjoying The Hundred. Cricket is a great game and all cricket supporters want others to be exposed to it. But it’s a shame these people don’t seem to realise the damage they’re doing to county cricket, the England Test team, and the England ODI team. The misinformation out there is exasperating.
The opposition to The Hundred isn’t based on a ‘head in sand’ failure to realise the need for progress, or indeed the need to target a more diverse audience. We all want the best for cricket, after all. Opposition to the The Hundred is based on the fact that there were plenty of other ways to achieve the ECB’s objectives without damaging the England teams, without damaging county cricket, and without dividing cricket supporters so damagingly. This, however, did not suit the ECB’s political and economic aspirations i.e. controlling the money generated by a competition (the counties take the revenue from the incredibly successful Blast) and then the opportunity to make money from licensing a new form of the game overseas. These objectives were always primary. As was the desire to reduce the damage from their own decision to hide cricket behind a paywall a decade and a half ago.
Putting some cricket back on terrestrial TV is a good thing. But The Hundred format simply wasn’t necessary. The BBC signed up when it was scheduled to be a T20 competition.
If everything the ECB said publicly about The Hundred was true then absolutely everyone would be behind it. But it isn’t true. And they know it isn’t true. Unfortunately, however, they’ve managed to persuade quite a few people (who haven’t been worn down by cynical ECB spin over a number of years) that what they say can be taken at face value.
Absolutely right, James.
Maybe we should just think of the different forms of cricket as like different kinds of music.
Loved by some hated by others
The key is Peter it’s in direct competition with what’s there already. Music isn’t like that.
Its as if the Rap and Hip-Hop culture was looking to destroy interest in the rest of the music scene and replace it with its own sensibilities. Which it might seem like sometimes, but clearly isn’t the case.
It’s even worse than that in my view, Marc, in that the revenue to fund this destruction is being milked from that which is being destroyed. As James points out, it is not the ECB’s aim that all forms of the game co-exist. It is a matter of policy that their baby, and only their baby, will survive.
Don’t even get how it flatters;
It’s in direct competition with existing formats depriving counties of a number of key players for the Royal London 50 overs competition and season ticket holders, already deprived of their best through central contract obligations, of further access to seeing their best. Yes it allows more opportunities for promising youngsters, but half a team of them isn’t going to win anything and you pay to see your best.
We’re the reigning 50 over world champions yet appear to be ignoring that for more 20 over practice.
How is The Hundred more than cosmetically different from the Bash in that regard?
How do Yorkshire punters feel about Bairstow effectively playing for Wales?
How can one tournament lasting only a few weeks hope to generate proper City support and allegiances when the players return to their county structures afterwards?
How is inventing new terminology and rules simplifying the game in general for new punters?
Are they really arrogant enough to assume their Hundred will start some sort of trend?
It’s a marketing excercise and clearly decisive for the game in general, including white ball.
Don’t see any answers forthcoming from the promoters.
The issue I have with The Hundred is with its diabolcal graphics it looks like its taken from Ceefax/Teletext and the scoreboard looks like Testcard F with its dodgy blocks and chevrons. Its never a good idea to use cities because it has no history to our sport and counties have a long history as it is part of our sport so I say fly your county flag to county cricket matches to show your loyalty where it is due and boycott The Hundred as city franchises means absolute nothing whatsoever.
“what a truly outstanding and dignified leader Heather Knight is, the Gareth Southgate of cricket, perhaps.”
Does she also tell the public to get vaccinated (or “vaccinated” since it’s not really a vaccine)? There’s nothing “dignified” in being a propaganda agent for the state and Big Pharma!
I see that the MCC are now saying that the crowd at Lord’s was the biggest ever for a domestic WOMEN’S match – which is of course what everyone bought or accepted their giveaway tickets for !!! Much of the press blurb about this competition is simply fake news.
This part of the 16.66 mix is being neglected:
Don’t ask me what the full implications of this are – but I suspect they aren’t good. If only we had a societal role called journalists to investigate but instead we have pom-pom girls.
The best mainstream article about the 16.66 so far:
It’s especially good that Engel gets this is a power grab, that it’s not just about money. Unfortunately Engel has been pigeonholed as “grumpy old git” and won’t be doing much more than singing to the choir.
Just to address a couple of items of fake news. Sophia Gardens is restricted to 5000 due to Welsh government rules. The Superchargers were originally called Leeds but some of the tribalists outside the city objected and so it was changed. (Much the same happened in Lancashire re the Manchester name but the vocal minority were told ‘tough luck’).
For me (an old git btw) it’s all getting better n better.