So, it’s finally upon us – and after all our concerns about accreditation, we were indeed in the press box on Wednesday night for the first ever match of The Hundred.
What did we make of it all? Here’s some initial thoughts…
Kate Cross’s post-match with the BBC said it all. “It’s the loudest, biggest crowd that I’ve ever played in front of on home soil – including international cricket”, she told Isa Guha.
It’s important to be historically accurate. Despite a boast by the ground announcer (which was repeated by Sky), 7,395 is NOT a record crowd at a domestic women’s match, in England or otherwise.
In the modern era, 12,901 fans were in attendance at the MCG for a WBBL match on 2 January 2016.
On the other hand, given that we were excited about 1,000 people showing up to the first KSL game, a crowd of almost 7,500 should go down as a BIG win for The Hundred. And it felt pretty amazing to be a part of it.
When it came down to it, no one really paid any attention to Becky Hill’s “set” between the innings – they were too busy grabbing another ice-cream before play restarted. That tells you something important: they wanted to watch the cricket.
Ultimately, this was a cricket match between two teams of world-class players. If it wasn’t quite our sport at its finest from start to end – there were a few dropped catches that the Originals will want to swiftly forget about – it WAS a thriller, as Dane van Niekerk dragged her side over the line despite the WinViz predictor being very firmly not in her favour for almost the entirety of the run chase.
Say it quietly, but is it possible that the ECB have worried too much about gimmicks, influencers and musical acts… at the expense of offering decent money to the women’s players, who will be the ones who make or break the success of this competition?
The TV coverage
After all the talk about gender parity, it struck a bum note to have two people (Tuffers and Vaughan) doing the vast majority of the BBC TV commentary who clearly had no idea who any of the non-England players were. We’ve got nothing against male commentators reporting on women’s cricket – but when they wouldn’t be able to pick out the players in an ID parade, that’s when you’ve got problems.
The BBC’s misspelling of player names also didn’t help matters. The small things really do matter when you want a tournament to make a statement about gender parity in sport.
*The at-ground graphics, whereby players introduce themselves over the loudspeaker as they walk out to bat. Useful, and fun.
*Having to look at opposite ends of the TV screen to see runs, wickets and the number of balls left. Seemed to us to make it MORE complicated to understand, not less.
*The umpire white cards, held up at the end of each “five” balls. Budget didn’t seem to stretch to providing proper laminated cards, and it looked a bit odd to have the umpires waving bits of notebook paper in the air.
*The Mady Villiers avatar. Rob Key did his best, but…
The jury’s out
The crowd was amazing, but the “newness factor” needs to be accounted for. The big question is, once the shiny novelty has worn off, will people still care about Oval Invincibles and the rest?
There’s still a way to go to prove that The Hundred is an advance on where we’d now be with the KSL, had it been allowed to continue growing.
There was also little sign of the “united team brands and identities” with the men which we’d been promised. None of the male players showed up at the ground to watch the game – OK, maybe Covid was a factor (?) but could they not at least have tweeted to show their support? (I’ve just checked and I can only find one player from either of the men’s teams who did so – kudos to Sam Billings.)
Overall positivity rating:
7/10. Solid start but still a long way to go.