In 2003, the England and Wales Cricket Board unveiled the Twenty20 competition that would revolutionise the game. At the time, there were doubts as to whether the format would be a success and whether it would devalue the sports as a whole.

However, the tournament was a smash hit with the public as spectators flocked to cricket grounds across England, while viewing figures on television were also boosted, as players on the field used their ingenuity to take aspects of the game to a new level.

Fifteen years later, it’s hard to imagine a time without the format. Players are now signing specialist deals to play only in the T20 competitions, while strokeplay used in the shorter game is working its way into the Test match arena.

Jos Buttler, among others, is bringing excitement and imagination to the red-ball game, highlighting the effect of T20 and the way younger players are now approaching their cricket.

Unfortunately for the ECB, they have not been the organisation to benefit commercially from their own invention.

Although the domestic competitions in England have been popular with supporters and have regular television coverage throughout the summer, it has not been the juggernaut that has taken control of the game in sub-continent.

 

Challenge From Abroad

The Indian Premier League has dominated the schedule in T20 with the biggest names in the game drawn to the competition by the lucrative nature of the contacts on offer.

Due to the quality on display, its global audience attracts more fanfare than the Vitality Blast and the Big Bash in Australia. The timing of the Blast makes it extremely difficult for England’s stars to feature in the competition due to their international commitments.

The Three Lions often attract top-tier teams for their summer schedule - therefore, players from leading nations such as Australia, India and South Africa are also unlikely to participate.

The trend put the ECB in a bind in their bid to compete with the IPL and the Big Bash. As a result, the organisation made a bold decision to develop another format.

The Hundred was unveiled to bring a format of English cricket in line with the IPL, with a franchise mode of eight cities rather than the 18 counties that play out the Blast.

Eyebrows have been raised over the format of the competition as the ECB have not clarified how the game will be played in terms of the deployment of overs.

It is a gamble from English cricket’s governing body, but their last one paid off and there’s no reason to pour scorn on the format before it has even been properly developed.

 

How Will It Work?

The 18 teams of the English county game voted in favour of a city-based competition to rival the IPL and the Big Bash.

After a year of deliberation, eight cities were put forward to host the franchises: Manchester, Leeds, Birmingham, Nottingham, Cardiff, Southampton and London (The Oval and Lord’s).

Several worthy teams missed out on selection, leaving areas of the country without the opportunity to watch the events live unless they’re willing to travel significant distances.

There will be a total of 32 games before the playoffs, with each team playing four matches both home and away before the post-season begins where the top four teams will battle it out for the crown.

The contests themselves will be as it says on the title – the Hundred. Both teams will face 100 deliveries per innings, with the side scoring the most runs winning the contest.

One of the major debates has been how the deliveries will be executed. In the traditional forms of the game, overs last for six balls before ending.

It was believed that the Hundred would follow a similar pattern, with the same system being deployed until the 90th delivery where, from there, ten deliveries could be bowled to end the innings.

 

Testing

However, in the trial matches, deliveries were bowled in blocks of ten rather than six apiece, with each bowler being allowed to send down a maximum of 20 balls, either in blocks of five or ten rather than the traditional means.

The powerplay, which in T20 is utilised in the opening six overs, lasts for 20 balls in the Hundred, while one of the other new rules for the English game at least includes timeouts that can be deployed by the coaching staff or captain.

Substitutions are also in line for the competition, allowing bowlers to be withdrawn for specialist fielders.

The players themselves will be selected via a draft as seen in the IPL, with only three overseas players allowed per squad of 15 members.

The success or failure of the competition will hinge on whether the England players are readily available whether they are on Test, ODI or T20 duty.

The plan is to play the tournament in the middle of the summer, where England have a hectic schedule. On the surface, the regulations at least appear a new interesting twist, but whether it works on the field remains to be seen.

 

WILL It Work?

The ECB have taken a gamble with the decision to implement a new format of the game. It has brought a fair share of criticism from well-respected voices in the sport.

The turmoil regarding the manner of how the deliveries will be bowled did not help matters, but given that the inaugural competition will not be played until 2020, the ECB have ample time to decide the best option.

Criticism always comes with new ideas and some of the condemnation has been overblown. The T20 competition has been popular across the country but has lacked the commercial pull needed to take the tournament to the next level.

Whatever concept the ECB may have come up with for their own version of the IPL would always seem inferior to the main product. By developing their own brand, it entices a potential new audience to the game, using Sky Sports and the BBC to broadcast matches.

The additional features of the proposed format may bring new viewers and spectators to grounds, while the limited matches will make demand for tickets high. Success or failure will depend on attracting the best players in the world.

The IPL works so well due to the talent of the players on the field. All of India’s stars play a vital role in their respective franchises and the same has to happen for England, with the sprinkling of the best superstars in the world added for effect.

The game itself will not faze the players as Samit Patel, playing in one of the trial matches claimed: "It was pretty good actually, it was different to what I was expecting. We're playing 20 balls less but there's not really much difference, to be honest.”

That endorsement from an experienced player is encouraging for the ECB, although the true test of their gamble will only be reflected by the punters watching on television and entering stadiums.

The organisation have taken a plunge with their decision to offer a new format in the game but, as proven by their last decision, it could be one that will yield huge dividends.

It would have been a great source of frustration that they were unable to capitalise on the huge success of T20 as their rivals did, but the Hundred may be the breakthrough the sport needs to continue to adapt and grow.

 

*Odds subject to change - correct at time of writing*

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