Cricket for Americans: 22 Feb. 2019: The Hundred

This summer, the England Cricket Board will bring us cricket’s fourth format: The Hundred.

I haven’t been really paying attention to the news around it. In this way, it reminds me of when the IPL first launched and all the controversy surrounding it’s defunct-before-a-ball-was-bowled precursor, the ICL. Sure, I read all the jokes and the tweets, but mostly all I know is that it is roundly despised and is quite the laughingstock among cricket’s active fanbase.

Here’s just one example via The Full Toss.

But today I did some reading, and for the benefit of my American readers new to the game — the whole point of this ongoing series — here’s what we can expect this summer in England and Wales.

The Hundred is just that, hundred deliveries per innings. So, over the course of a game, it’s 40 deliveries shorter than the current shortest form, the T20. Whether these 20 minutes or so will end up attracting new people to the game in the same that the T20 has (in theory) is hard to tell. But the shorter matches will appeal to terrestrial television, as the BBC will be airing 10 matches over the course of the summer.

Now, Wiki says the games will be made up of 15 traditional six ball overs, with one 10 ball over at the end. But as near as I can tell, overs can be either five or 10 balls, but either way bowlers will switch ends after 10 balls.

The league will feature eight city-based teams and will take place over 38 days over the height of the English summer holidays and will feature both a mens’s league and a women’s league (this is good news! And might be the one thing that actually grows the game).

Reaction has been mixed. England captain, Joe Root, is on board. As is, as mentioned, the BBC. But Indian players will probably skip it, and it will be interesting to see if what other nations follow their lead. And cricket’s base supporters hate it. They think it’s a joke and that it will further erode the already dangerously eroded first class championship, which in the end will have long lasting and negative affects on England’s Test team, which still has to be seen as their marque product. And, well, they think’s dumb marketing PR nonsense created by people who don’t know a lick about cricket but think they understand media and flash and profit.

But here’s the deal: people — even those in cricket’s already existing hardcore base — will still watch next summer. It will be new and the cricket will be fun and yeah it’s silly and we don’t need an even shorter version of the game but still. It will be fun. And we will all watch.

It’s summed up nicely in this tweet:

We’ll watch, and it will be fun, because we all watch the T20 and The Hundred isn’t all that different from the T20, which is kind of a joke in and of itself.

The first reply to Tickner’s is, however, equally as astute:

Yeah, the cricket will be fun, but is that really how it should be measured? Shouldn’t we measure it instead on how it does the one thing it is supposed to do: grow the game domestically? And how it avoids doing the one thing that we are all worried it is going to do: further distract from and erode away first class cricket?

So, next year, let’s all tune in, and have a drink and watch the big hits, and let the sellouts and TV contracts fill the coffers of the clubs involved, but let’s also keep telling the administrators what we really want: competitive first class and test cricket, and in order to achieve that, those two formats need to remain everyone’s priority. And let’s keep an eye on those clubs and their coffers, ensuring that money from The Hundred is reinvested in ways that will protect and grow the game throughout England and throughout the world.

*

Speaking of competitive first class cricket: Shield cricket, Australia’s first class league, starts up again this weekend, with several spots on this summer’s Ashes squad still vacant. ALL Shield cricket matches are available to stream on Cricket Australia’s website. First ball is usually around 5:30 p.m. CT.

Until tomorrow.

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