The matches

The blurb on the Hundred website sums up the aims from simplicity of the game to the desired audience: “Seven cities, eight teams, 100 balls. The Hundred will be played over five weeks during the school holidays and will be a great way for families to enjoy cricket.”

The ECB’s market research showed that two and a half times more people questioned identify with a city rather than a county; 75 percent of families said they prefer short games that finish by 9pm and 19 percent of those asked who do not follow cricket said the complicated nature of the sport’s terminology is the main barrier to attending games. Those answers have underpinned the design of the tournament.

The broadcasters will try to make it easier to tell which team is winning. So for the team batting first the scoreboard will show runs scored from balls faced (57 runs from 25 balls), for the team batting second it will be runs needed and balls remaining (75 required from 51 balls) with Sky using the winviz equation as well (which shows the percentage chance of each side winning updated ball by ball). 

Each team’s innings will be 100 balls long (plus no balls and wides) with ten lots of ten balls from each end. The captains will choose whether a bowler bowls five balls in a row or stays on to bowl all ten. The bowlers can bowl a maximum of 20 balls per innings and can bowl two five ball overs in a row either from the same end or alternate ends.

The decision review system using Hawkeye will be available for the first time in domestic cricket in England as well as a ‘smart replay’ system that will call no balls automatically (which will result in a free hit).

One of the main reasons for the Hundred is to complete matches in two and a half hours ending at 9pm to attract young families. Teams will be on the clock throughout. There will be 50 seconds allowed for change of ends for broadcasters. 

The fielding side can call a two-minute timeout when the head coach can come on the field and talk tactics to players. It is not compulsory and can only be called after 25 legitimate balls have been bowled in an innings.

There will be a 25 ball powerplay when only two fielders are allowed outside the inner circle and umpires will call “five” at the end of an over instead of “over” as has been traditionally the case. They will also hold up a white card to signify the end of the first five legitimate balls from one end.

Got all that?

The competition

There are eight new teams, all city based, that will play each other home and away in the group round of 32 matches. The team finishing top will qualify for the final and the sides in second and third will play an eliminator to decide the other finalist.

Both men’s and women’s final will take place at Lord’s on Aug 21 in a short window between the third and fourth Test matches against India meaning the England men’s team will be available.

The men’s salaries were cut this year by up to 20 percent due to covid losses in 2020. The men will earn between £30,000-£125,000, a striking pay gap with the women. Their salaries were not cut but they are only being paid between  £3,600 to £15,000 to play in the tournament. 

However, prize money will be equal. The winning men and women’s teams will earn £150,000 each, and the runners-up £75,000. 

The players

Each squad is allowed 16 players with three overseas. The star quality has been badly hit in recent weeks. There are no Indian players in the men’s competition but five in the women’s tournament including teenage superstar batsman Shafali Verma (Birmingham Phoenix).

The likes of David Warner (Southern Brave), Steve Smith and Mitchell Starc (both Welsh Fire), Glenn Maxwell (London Spirit), Marcus Stoinis (Southern Brave), Kane Williamson (Birmingham Phoenix), Shaheen Shah Afridi (Birmingham Phoenix) and Kagiso Rabada (Manchester Originals) all pulled out for various reasons but mainly to avoid covid quarantine or because of international commitments. The salaries are nowhere near comparable to the IPL, another reason why many felt able to stay at home.

Afghanistan leg spinner Rashid Khan (Trent Rockets), South Africans Quinton de Kock (Southern Brave) and Faf du Plessis and West Indies T20 star Keiron Pollard (Welsh Fire) are the main draws now outside England’s white ball stars such as Jason Roy, Eoin Morgan and Adil Rashid.

One unintended boost for the competition is that Jofra Archer will have to make his playing return in the Hundred with no championship cricket scheduled.

Each team has been awarded an England Test contracted player, although with the India series starting on Aug 4 they will be limited to playing the first week of the competition and the final. Morgan captains the London Spirit where he will work with coach Shane Warne. 

Georiga Adams of Oval Invincibles (R) and Issy Wong of Birmingham Phoenix (L) are two of the major players in The Hundred

Credit: GETTY IMAGES

Tickets

The opening match of the competition – a women’s game between Oval Invincibles and Manchester Originals on July 21 – is close to selling out while the first men’s game the following evening is a sell-out.

More information about ticket sales will be released by the ECB on Thursday. It is understood ticket sales in London have been strong, and there has been an uptick in Nottingham and Manchester in recent weeks but it is unclear whether they are selling on 100 percent capacity or reduced availability for covid reasons.

Tactics

When to use the timeout will be key for the fielding side either as an opportunity to regroup and break momentum built by the batting side. Captains will also have to decide whether to keep a bowler on for ten consecutive balls if they are doing well. It is unlikely this will happen when a pace bowler is on but could be useful if a spinner is tying a batsman down. Wrist spinners are expected to be the key bowlers, just like T20, and the race will be on among batsmen to score the first Hundred hundred. 

Coverage

The broadcasters – Sky and the BBC – will play a key role in the tournament’s success. They will have the job of explaining the game to new audiences but have to balance that with not alienating existing fans by dumbing down.

The Sky Cricket channel will be renamed the Hundred channel with Andrew Flintoff leading their coverage alongside Darren Sammy, Dinesh Kartik, Stuart Broad and the usual Sky cricket lineup. 

The BBC coverage is presented by Isa Guha and includes Michael Vaughan, Carlos Brathwaite and James Anderson. The BBC will show ten men’s matches including the final live on BBC Two and three women’s matches. 

Isa Guha will lead the BBC's coverage of the Hundred

Credit: TELEGRAPH

All games will be live on Sky, including those on the BBC and all women’s matches will be shown free on Sky’s youtube channel. 

Commentary will be gender-neutral which means batsmen will be called batter but phrases like third man will be left up to individual commentators. 

There will be live DJs at every game and each match will have a musical act with headliners including rap star Lady Leshurr, Everything Everything, Jack Garratt and Jake Bugg. A Hundred playlist available on BBC Sounds. 

Lord’s will host live music for the first time since Jools Holland played during an interval in 2000, not including the marching band that sometimes appears during Test matches. MCC members are in for a shock.

Sponsors

The ECB has steered clear of its usual banking and insurance backers.  Lego and Sky have joined up to produce mini figures of commentators and players including Flintoff, Joe Root, Ben Stokes, Moeen Ali and Heather Knight. 

A partnership was announced last month with Croods, the children’s movie franchise, with promotions in ground and adverts in cinemas.

The ECB has come under fire from campaigners and the government for its £4m deal with KP snacks which will see a different snack brand on each shirt. There have been many deals done in recent months. Unilever signed a £10m contract to sponsor the Hundred promoting its Lifebouy and Sure brands. Online car retailer Cazoo was named in December as the ‘principal partner’ with its name on players’ shirt sleeves and in grounds.