England’s domestic fixtures for 2020 have just been announced, including the inaugural season of The Hundred.
Here, the PA news agency looks at some key issues around the innovation.
What is The Hundred?
An entirely new 100-ball format designed by the England and Wales Cricket Board. The idea is to inject fresh life into the sport domestically, building on the existing fan base with a particular emphasis on bringing women and children into the fold. The decision to create franchises at the expense of traditional counties has attracted criticism from fans but the gambit has been well received by broadcasters.
How does it fit into the county season?
The powers that be have given the project the best chance of success, handing over a month-long slab of prime real estate in the schedule. The men’s competition runs from July 17 to August 15, with the women’s event taking place between July 22 and August 14.
One of the prime drivers of The Hundred is the battle to win a fresh family audience and as such it needs to take place throughout the school holidays. The peak of summer also gives it the best chance of avoiding inclement weather, though that is a gamble at the best of times in Britain.
Where can people see it?
There are eight host venues for the men’s competition – Lord’s, The Oval, Old Trafford, Headingley, Cardiff, Trent Bridge, Edgbaston and the Ageas Bowl. A further 11 grounds will host games in the women’s event. The tournament also marks the return of top level cricket on regular free-to-air television. While the whole campaign will be broadcast by Sky Sports, a selection of 10 men’s matches and up to eight women’s matches – including finals – will be shown on the BBC.
What about the big kick-off?
Things get under way when Welsh Fire visit the Oval Invincibles on July 17, with a large and lively crowd expected at a venue that embraced Twenty20 from the start.
Will England players be involved?
The opener could see Jonny Bairstow, Tom Banton and Liam Plunkett line up against Jason Roy, both Curran brothers and Sam Billings could all help get the party started, and there is a similar spread of England talent in each of the teams. But the likes of Ben Stokes and Joe Root will only be available for three fixtures – as well as finals day – before returning to their day job in the Test team.
How do the men’s and women’s tournaments differ?
The gender pay gap is alive and well – the lowest male contract is worth £30,000 and the highest female tier comes in at £15,000 – and barring a series of double headers, the women will tend to play at smaller venues. Teams will wear the same kits, share facilities and some coaching resources as links between the squads grow.
How will it affect the existing domestic Twenty20 and 50-over competitions?
The Vitality T20 Blast has been moved slightly forward in the calendar, running between May 28 and September 5 but will be squeezed commercially after enjoying a year of record ticket sales. The Royal London One-Day Cup will run parallel to The Hundred and will therefore be missing a huge swathe of the best county cricketers. That seems a curious way to treat a 50-over format that England have just become world champions in but the ECB hope sending fixtures to out grounds and offering a pathway for new, emerging talent will prove a draw in its own right.