To say the sporting schedule is packed currently would be to understate the state of play in this country. The Commonwealth Games is dominating terrestrial television and fresh off the outstanding win for England’s women at the Euros, Premier League football has returned with a bang. Within that context, it might have passed you by that the flagship “white ball” competition in England, The Hundred, has returned for a second edition, adding a cricketing flavour to the smorgasbord of sport on offer.
For the unanointed, The Hundred comprises two competitions, one for women and one for men, in which eight teams play in matches in which a hundred balls are bowled in each innings. It is played with a white ball, hence the earlier reference and balls are bowled in increments of either five or 10, which is a big change from the traditional six-ball over that features in other formats. In some ways, this competition is the gateway to watching other, longer forms of cricket that those of us who love the game, generally prefer.
The introduction of the competition, which the English Cricket Board have thrown fortunes at, has been controversial for several reasons that will not be covered here. However, most would agree that the inaugural competition was a success from the perspective of raising the profile of women’s cricket. This owed to the fact matches were played on the same day as the men, ensuring large crowds in stadiums, and big TV audiences which have constituted a boon to women’s cricket in much the same way we will see with the Euros and women’s football.
Last Wednesday, this edition of The Hundred started with the mens competition kicking off in earnest. Of the matches played to date, London Spirit’s last ball victory over the Oval Invincibles has been the most entertaining. The latter almost secured victory from the clutches of defeat following some impulsive hitting by batters Tom Curran and Danny Briggs, but ultimately, they fell short by just three runs.
With only one round of fixtures played so far, it is hard to interpret much from the results, but the competition has already seen some fabulous performances from the likes of former England Test Match Captain Joe Root, World Cup winning former England white ball captain Eoin Morgan, as well as overseas stars like Hilton Cartwright. With the likes of Kieron Pollard, Andre Russell, Quinton de Kock and Rashid Khan competing, more fireworks are to be expected.
On 11th August the women’s competition gets underway, which will feature several stars of the game including Australians Ellyse Perry and Beth Mooney, alongside the likes of Dane Van Niekerek and Marizanne Kapp who performed so highly last year. The first match will see the Oval Invincibles take on the Northern Superchargers at 6.30pm, straight after the men’s match has finished, almost guaranteeing a big crowd at the Oval, and a big TV audience.
If you can create a gap in your schedule of sport to fit in The Hundred, it is likely to be well worth it. With plenty of talent on show and matches that finish in hours rather than days, this format is one that even the most avowed cricketing critic can enjoy.