OPINION: 100-Ball Cricket A Nuclear Disaster For The Women’s Game

Today the ECB have announced that what we thought would be the new city T20 franchise league will actually be an 8-team domestic competition played according to the totally-not-tried-and-tested format of 100-ball cricket.

Today the ECB have not only thrown common sense to the winds but appear to have entirely ditched their commitment to developing women’s cricket.

We already knew that the end of the Kia Super League was probably nigh: the lure of a brand new T20 competition, to be played in an aligned way with the new men’s franchises according to the BBL / WBBL model that has been so successful in Australia, was too strong to resist.

In itself that hurt. We – and by that I mean not just CRICKETher but the administrators, the fans, the coaches and the players – had poured our hearts and souls into the KSL. We wanted to make it work, and it did: audiences in their thousands, including nearly 3500 spectators at last year’s Hove Finals Day, were finally paying attention to domestic cricket.

But we could deal with the hurt, because we thought that maybe something better, or at least equally good, was coming.

How wrong we were.

This new 100-ball format, the ECB says, will provide “clear differentiation from other competitions” and be “distinct from the popular Vitality Blast”. The fact that the new competition will blast a nuclear hole through the women’s domestic pathway in England is not so much glossed over as ignored completely.

KSL is the only top-level T20 cricket that our domestic players get. There is a county T20 tournament, but the two competitions are frankly incomparable. The Super League is a paid competition which features the best players from all over the world. The women’s county T20 competition is amateur, unpaid, and short-lived, with each side playing a maximum of 7 games a season. For that reason it tends not to attract overseas players.

And yet this, from 2020, is what we will be left with: all players below England level having 7 T20 games a season to learn the format that is at the fundamental heart of women’s international cricket. It is farcical.

Clare Connor states in the press release that for women players this competition represents “an exciting stage upon which to display their talent”. But will players like Sophie Devine and Meg Lanning really want to come to England to play “100-ball cricket”? Why would they? Do the ICC have plans to introduce a 100-ball World Cup?

3 years ago, when plans for the Super League were first announced, I was so excited. I wrote that there was “much to celebrate, and much to look forward to”. It felt like the development of the women’s game was being made a priority.

Today, as I read incredulously through the ECB’s press release, all I could see was the total lack of consideration that those high up making these decisions have given to the women’s game. Make no mistake: for women’s cricket, 100-ball cricket is a nuclear disaster waiting to happen.

See also: The 100 Is English Cricket’s Vietnam

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9 thoughts on “OPINION: 100-Ball Cricket A Nuclear Disaster For The Women’s Game

  1. Totally agree Raf, this is all bonkers. “16 over and 4 ball” cricket doesn’t quite have the same ring as T20?! Just when the younger girls in that mid area between County teams and KSL/England structure were aspiring to get to that next level their aim now is from County to “16 over and 4 ball “ cricket. Will there be any chance to re kindle interest from Kia to extend? A bit pie in the sky maybe?
    Whatever next?
    Maybe time to invest more time and money to the beleaguered County 50 and 20 over set ups?

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  2. This sounds horrible!

    As a cricket fan I have had many problems with the ECB’s administration of the game, but I have always felt, over the last five-ten years, that they have done well by women’s cricket.

    This feels like such a backward step.

    I remember six years ago that Australia’s Villani spent a summer playing in Stoke with Danni Wyatt in their local leagues, but that was an exception, a way of getting some cricket, any cricket. Surely we have moved on from that and can, and should, encourage the women’s game a lot more.

    This is retrograde. And very sad.

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  3. I don’t think the league will have any problem attracting top players, if the money is right, but regarding the format, the KSL itself demonstrates it’s more than possible to get a 20 over match completed inside the required timeslot.

    The worst thing about this announcement is that it seems as if all the thinking has been about the men’s tournament, with women’s cricket being an afterthought and once more relegated to the ‘support act’ category.

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  4. Personally I think it’s a terrible idea and a huge backwards step. However, I’d love to know what the players think – and their real opinions, not just “I can’t slag off my employer so I have to say I’m excited” statements!

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  5. The ECB appear to be failing both men’s and women’s cricket with this announcement. It’s never been clearer that they’re involved in an intractable siege with the counties, and English cricket as a whole is losing out as both sides employ scorched earth tactics!

    It would have been better to either not bother with this whole enterprise (preferably) or if they insisted, put the foot down and make it a full T20 with the clear message that the Blast would have to go eventually, and this was its replacement.

    How is 100 balls much different to 120 anyway? It’s a cursory nod to change for change”s sake without going the whole hog and embracing something which could be significantly different, and interesting, like T15 or even the much-maligned T10 formats!

    The only good point to come from that would be, I don’t think the fact that it’s a “not-quite” T20 format will stop people from considering it to be T20, both fans and players alike. Any skills honed in this format would still be applicable to T20. Any fear that overseas players would avoid it just because of that are probably going over the top. If it’s the top level women’s competition, that should be OK. But still a backward step from having the KSL.

    I’m not normally one who particularly values the traditions of the game more than anything else, and thinks that only Test cricket is real cricket (women’s cricket fans don’t tend to be). But the 10 ball over idea appears to be out of line, seriously. How will that slot into current statistics? It will cause scorers and statisticians all sorts of problems surely! Another pointless idea from the ECB, just so they can try and get more money while making out that they’re trying to be more inclusive. It will probably fail but they’ll manage to twist it into looking like it was a success.

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  6. Have tried to be pragmatic about this, because if it means more of a chance of women’s domestic cricket on free-to-air TV then it has to be a good thing, but I have more misgivings the more I think about it.

    Broadly speaking, the 100-ball element is the least important aspect, as it’s fairly similar to T20, though it seems a backward step that the top level of domestic T20 in England will revert to amateur level after establishing a professional plague.

    The 10-ball over may also mean less chance of younger bowlers being entrusted with responsibility, at least in the short-medium term.

    My main concern is that when the KSL was first announced, the plan was for a 50-over version to be launched in 2017, so there would be professional set-up in both women’s formats at domestic level.

    This would mean the best non-international players in the country would be professional/semi-professional for a large chunk of the summer.

    That plan was scrapped, and we’re now in a situation where, by 2024, the extent of domestic professional women’s cricket in England will be a five week window, which is exactly what we have scheduled for this summer with the expanded KSL.

    In the space of eight years, women’s domestic cricket will have gone from plans to have professional competitions in both international formats, to a reality of a single competition, in an experimental non-international format.

    Add to that, the worry that the women’s T100 is looking very much like it’ll be the support act for the men’s competition.

    This all seems like a scaling back of ambitions to me, and doesn’t look like nearly enough to keep pace with developments in Australia.

    Regardless of format, women’s cricket doesn’t suffer from fixture congestion at domestic or international level, so there was more scope for two ‘3-hour format’ competitions than there was in men’s cricket, which makes the disbanding of the KSL and retention of the Blast seem even stranger.

    Hopefully I’m proven completely wrong, and this is just the start of a huge expansion of the professional game for women in England.

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