The Hundred: What Is It?
Introduction and Origins
The Hundred is the title given to a brand new English and Welsh cricket league that will launch in July 2020. The league will be made up of eight city-based franchises, as opposed to the traditional counties. Each franchise will field a men’s and women’s side, and the intention is that this league will run alongside the current T20 league, the T20 Blast.
So how did all of this come about? Firstly, the title came from a new format of cricket devised by the English Cricket Board (ECB) on the 19 April 2018 called 100-ball cricket. In 100-ball cricket, a team’s innings would consist of ten 10 ball overs to complete the 100 balls.
The concept of a city based league however, stretches back to the 26 April 2017, when 38 members of the ECB approved the proposed creation of said competition. Three counties, Essex, Middlesex and Kent did not vote in favour though. However, the lure of a guaranteed £1.3 million going to each county per year meant that support was virtually unanimous.
Essex’s concerns were based on the fact that the reduced number of teams would mean that the focus of the competition would only be on certain areas of the country. Middlesex, unlike the other counties do not own their own ground. Lord’s belongs to the Marylebone Cricket Club, and thus would not benefit from the use of their home venue. Kent simply abstained from the vote.
League and Playoff Structure
The eight franchises will compete for the title over the summer holiday period in England (mid July to early September). Each team will play four matches at their home ground, and four away. This is to ensure that teams will play their closest rivals twice, in a similar fashion to Australia’s Big Bash League. In total, there will be 32 games in the league or regular season prior to the playoffs.
The top four teams in the league at the end of the regular season will compete in a playoff format identical to what is used in the Indian Premier League. Basically the top two teams will play each other, with the winner advancing straight to the final. The loser then plays against the winner of a match contested between the third and fourth placed teams, in order to determine the second finalist.
Teams and Players
The identities of the eight teams were only revealed in May 2019, and they are as follows:
Manchester Originals- based at Old Trafford, Manchester
Northern Superchargers- based at Headingley, Leeds
Birmingham Phoenix- based at Edgbaston, Birmingham
Trent Rockets- based at Trent Bridge, Nottingham
Welsh Fire- based at Sophia Gardens, Cardiff
London Spirit- based at Lord’s, London
Oval Invincibles- based at The Oval, London
Southern Brave- based at The Rose Bowl, Southampton
Each one of these eight teams will have a squad of fifteen players, three of which can be overseas players. Two of the fifteen will be players that have shown outstanding form in the T20 Blast. The squads will be assembled using a draft system, similar to what is used in American franchise leagues. The Hundred will be the first English sports league to ever employ this system.
The draft will take place in October 2019 and shown live on Sky Sports. Sky and the BBC between them will broadcast all of the matches live.
Will it Succeed?
Of course it’s far too early to tell. Personally I find everything about this competition totally abhorrent. I’m a traditionalist when it comes to cricket and The Hundred is as far removed from the game that I grew up with and love as its possible to get. For me this is the cricketing equivalent of fast food- cheap, gratifying but entirely unhealthy. My utmost wish is for this competition to fall flat on its face. English cricket is all about the national team, followed by the 18 historic counties that have contested the County Championship in an official capacity since 1890, and unofficially for decades prior to that. However, that’s my heart talking, what does my head think will happen?
This competition will probably be a financial and commercial success. Staging it in the summer holidays will give the organisers’ target audience, families and kids a chance to flock to games. The short duration of the league and the games themselves are ideally suited to the modern audience. An audience we are told that have very short attention spans. Hopefully any new fans coming into the sport will gain a full interest of cricket, rather than just The Hundred.
What impact will it have on other forms of the game? Personally I think that contrary to what certain reports state, Test Match and County Cricket will survive. The dream for any young cricketer is still to play for their nation at Test match level. Test Match Cricket is the only form of the game which tests a cricketer in every way possible, and also the only way that a cricketer can truly measure themselves against all time greats such as Sir Don Bradman and WG Grace. County Cricket is the traditional breeding ground for the Test cricketer, so that will survive. The Counties are the lifeblood of the English game, and thus wiping them out would be a huge and costly mistake. T20 will survive too, as that has built up a significant fanbase since its inception in 2005. However, I can personally see the ODI game disappearing or perhaps fading into insignificance in the face of an increasingly overcrowded cricketing environment. I await July 2020 with an equal degree of curiosity and apathy. My main interest remains following the England Test Match Team in the International arena, and my home county Warwickshire in the County Championship. Although I probably will keep a beady eye on The Hundred just to see how it all plays out.
Will 100-Ball Cricket Work?
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2019 James Kenny