Having watched a game of The Hundred for the first time this weekend, we have a confession to make: it really was a lot more like cricket than we expected.
To be fair, our friends at the ECB had repeatedly told us this (waves at Beth Barrett-Wild) but we’d been sceptical, partly because all the initial marketing had beaten into our heads that it WASN’T like cricket – it was completely new and different – that’s what all the Facebook ads and Instagram posts were telling us… and we believed them!
The fact that The Hundred is actually “just cricket” is both a blessing and a problem for the ECB.
It is a blessing, because I now think that “normal” fans will come around to it as a game pretty fast; but it is a problem because the rest of the world – the “mums and kids” who “don’t like cricket” – will also realise quite quickly that it is just cricket… and… well… they don’t really like cricket!
To help get over this, the ECB have a huge entertainment push on the cards – they are planning to make the game a spectacle around the field, even if it isn’t quite so entertaining on it.
Which brings us to Katy Perry, and the real reason why the Aussies paid what I believe the kids call “serious coin” to have her at The MCG last year for the T20 World Cup Final. Put simply, Katy Perry was an insurance policy – and one that, like many insurance policies, they didn’t actually need in the end.
Perry’s presence was insurance against Australia NOT making the final. The main concert was scheduled for AFTER the game, so that local fans, 99% of whom were of course Australian, would come (and crucially STAY) in the event of (say) an India v South Africa final.
But the point is, in order to do this, they needed KATY FREAKIN’ PERRY – one of the biggest stars in the world! Getting Ella Henderson* would just not have cut it; and the tournament organisers knew it.
(* No, I’ve no idea who Ella Henderson is either – I just googled who is currently top of the pops!)
Now back to The Hundred, which of course won’t have Katy Perry… or even Ella Henderson. And here’s the bad news: I’m just not convinced that even pulling out all the stops short of that – the juggles, the acrobats, the guys with bats on stilts – is going to make much difference to only thing that really matters – the cricket on the field.
But here’s the good news: the cricket on the field will be good. It will be the best players in the world, and they’ll be playing CRICKET. And the ads can scream all they want that The Hundred “Not Just Cricket”; but they will be wrong – it is “just” cricket; and as far as I’m concerned, that’s just fine.
Agree it’s not just cricket, it’s just another form of family entertainment to choose from. More choice just dilutes and a cold/wet afternoon of cricket or say the cinema is just a choice, especially without a popstar.
Will the T20 fan base go to both, probably but more importantly can this audience afford it or stay at home and watch on TV, potentially diluting the live experience.
Yes it will be new but it won’t be new for long. Will I take my youngest daughter, yes to support women’s cricket. But will I go “All in” no because it’s just cricket
Yes the Hundred practice match did look quite good fun. It revealed a few emerging subtleties on the tactics front as well. Not sure why, but I’d initially imagined that when a bowler/captain decided to only go with the first 5 balls of the 10, then change bowler, then the other bowler came in from the other end. No – they continue from the same end, so 10 balls in a row all come from the same end no matter who bowls them. Glad to have had that weird illusion dispelled.
Of course, this means that the once-an-over strike change from one batsman to the other at the end of an over now only occurs once every 10 balls, not once every six. Therefore players in the Hundred have to be really careful not to get bogged down, or they could chew up a whole heap of dots. So this may favour more in-form, quick between the wickets players, or those who can rotate strike more effectively. More “Bash and block” players might be a risk, unless they’re in top nick.
Keeping wickets in hand might also be favourable, as nursing the tail could be a tough task if they easily have the potential of facing 10 consecutive dot balls. We might see run rates tumble after a few wickets down.
Bowling sides also have the option of mixing up their ends with a spinner then pace for 5 each, or vice-versa, to keep batsmen on their toes. Overall these little nuances appear superficially to have tilted things in bowlers’ favour – but we’ll have to see what else comes along to challenge that idea. My initial bet is we’ll see some high scores, but also quite a lot of low ones as well.