England’s proposed “The Hundred” format would be run alongside its existing domestic Twenty20 competition. (Reuters/Action Images: Andrew Boyers)
Twenty20 cricket has long been billed as a saviour format for the sport, but there is talk in the UK of shortening the format even further.
The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) has announced a new eight-team city tournament for 2020, but surprised many by revealing it would adopt a brand new format of 100 balls per innings.
The arrival of Twenty20 cricket — featuring 20 overs (120 balls) per innings — in 2003 sparked talk of a rejuvenation for the sport at a time when the future of Test cricket was increasingly being called into question.
Now the ECB wants to introduce further innovation, saying it is crucial to the future of the game.
“This is a fresh and exciting idea which will appeal to a younger audience and attract new fans to the game,” ECB chief executive Tom Harrison said.
“Our game has a history of innovation and we have a duty to look for future growth for the health and sustainability of the whole game.”
Why go even shorter than 20 overs?
English cricket authorities are making a big play towards the families in their sales pitch. Codenamed “The Hundred”, the new tournament will see day games starting at 2:30pm and night games at 6:30pm, allowing plenty of time for families with young kids in tow to get home afterwards.
India’s IPL has introduced DRS this season, meaning the duration of matches could stretch further. (AP: Rajanish Kakade)
In Australia, Big Bash matches can take just over three hours to finish, with each innings lasting about 90 minutes, with a 20-minute break in between. However, with the Decision Review System (DRS) being brought in for the new Indian Premier League season, Twenty20’s match duration could stretch.
The Big Bash does not have DRS yet, though a number of pundits reckon it’s just a matter of time. And it’s time that seems to be at the core of The Hundred’s offering.
The 100-ball format is expected to see a match wrapped up in about two hours — so about the length of a football game — allowing for those family-friendly times.
How many overs in the new format? Six doesn’t go into 100…
Indeed, the traditional six-ball over doesn’t fit nicely into 100 balls-per-innings. That’s where a special 10-ball over comes into play.
Cricket Australia says it has no intention of making any format changes to any of its sanctioned matches. (AAP: Richard Wainwright)
Each innings per match would consist of 15 overs (90 balls), with a 10-ball over tacked on. Whether that would be at the end of the dig or called for by the captain at some point in the innings is not clear yet.
It means matches in The Hundred would be 40 balls shorter than Twenty20 clashes that go the full distance, minus the usual wides, no-balls and free hits.
The supposedly sacrosanct six-ball over has not always been so, mind you. Four-ball overs and eight-ball overs have been used at different times since cricket’s heady days of 1876. Six balls has been the standard since 1979.
Jimmy Neesham tweets It’s not even like a ten ball over is that innovative I bowl them all the time
Much of the innovation in England — with new teams based at Lord’s, the Oval, Edgbaston, Headingly, Trent Bridge, Old Trafford, Cardiff and Southampton — mirrors what has already happened in Australia, with Big Bash franchises co-existing alongside the states’ Sheffield Shield and one-day cup teams.
The ECB’s move will also see eight women’s teams created in conjunction with the men’s teams in the new five-week tournament, something already enacted Down Under with the creation of the Women’s Big Bash League.
The Women’s Big Bash has given female players an excellent showcase of their talents in Australia. (AAP: Brendan Esposito)
England’s domestic Twenty20 competition, the T20 Blast, would still continue alongside The Hundred.
Twenty20 cricket emerged from the ECB’s brains trust back in 2003, and its innovation spawned Twenty20 World Cups, the big-monied IPL and Australia’s increasingly successful Big Bash.
But will this latest innovation be headed to our shores any time soon? Don’t bet on it.
A Cricket Australia spokesperson said the national governing body was not “looking at any format changes to any of our sanctioned matches”.
But if you do want to get your fix from even quicker cricketing formats, there’s always the annual Hong Kong Sixes — a tournament where each team faces five overs each — while there have been lesser 10-over-a-side tournaments staged before.