The Hundred has won over the doubters and smashed its way to success | Emma John
Well, that happened. The first edition of the Hundred is complete, after 32 games, 429 sixes, 1,581 fours and 3,327 uses of the word matchup. The Oval Invincibles got away with their hubristic team name thanks to their women bossing their final, and Southern Brave won the men’s contest despite being cruelly saddled with a logo that looked like it belonged to a utility company that offers online-only discounts on Uswitch.
Bathed in the pink-and-green glow of victory, their winning captain, James Vince, admitted the players had shared the same doubts as every other cricket lover. “Before it started I think everyone was a bit hesitant as to what it would be like,” he said, cradling an H-shaped trophy that will remind Red Dwarf fans of the same letter emblazoned on Chris Barrie’s forehead. “But every game’s felt like a final in a way.”
The atmosphere in the grounds has certainly delivered on the hopes of the tournament’s inventors, as have the BBC viewing figures. Scientists and curmudgeons alike will tell you these prove nothing, except that free-to-air telly is great exposure for any sport, and that all sorts of people will enjoy cricket if you attract them to it.
But the past five weeks have taught us a few things, and one of those is how to count to 10. So in the recently updated spirit of the game, here are 10 lessons we’ve learned from the Hundred.
1) Teams need identities
While there’s been plenty of hot action on the pitch, offstage the teams felt bland and interchangeable, no surprise given they’re laboratory creations. Only a few have yet built a distinctive brand – including Oval Invincibles for the women, and Birmingham Phoenix for the men. Moeen Ali’s captaincy, which stressed humility above all else, has been a heartwarming revelation for how a sporting franchise can be led.
2) Kevin Pietersen belongs on the BBC
His shouty (and sometimes inane) commentary has threatened to induce a stroke in many a Sky Sports subscriber, but KP’s motormouth and enthusiasm for the “kiiiiiiiiidz!” would be far better for the Beeb than the middle-aged Tuffers and Vaughan show they’re currently playing.
3) Those DayGlo kits are actually working
Hundred merch has flown off the shelves like a golden snitch out of a Harry Potter gift shop and the bright colours of both the outfits and the graphics seem particularly effective on the telly, capturing the attention of children already programmed by the psychedelic powers of Iggle Piggle and Spongebob Squarepants. You might have thought that the orange Butterkist kits (Butterkits™️, surely) looked like carroty vomit, but the designers knew what they were doing.
4) The Hundred needs to embrace what it is
The IPL is a soap opera that consumes a nation for six weeks. The Big Bash is an all-Australian family night out. The Hundred is cartoon cricket for kids: Liam Livingstone and Jonny Bairstow’s super-size sixes, Imran Tahir’s eye-popping expressions and Sunil Narine’s fumbles in the field have all brought a delicious Tom and Jerry quality to the tournament. Let’s go with that. If it’s not for you, there’s plenty more cricket that is.
5) You’ve got to bowl first
You really have.
6) Franchises need stories
No game in the tournament – even the eliminators – lived up to the drama of the Northern Superchargers v Trent Rockets men’s game. Alex Hales was with the tail, needing to find 43 from 25 balls, when his counterpart Ben Stokes lobbied for a delivery that had gone for a single to be called dead ball. The umpires obliged, and Hales smacked the rebowled delivery to Stokes on the boundary, who then dropped it over the rope for six. Rockets pulled off an unlikely win – with a jumbo helping of subtext and frisson.
7) Kids will dance to anything
Jax Jones got a far better reception at Lord’s than Atomic Kitten had at Trent Bridge 18 years ago, but the attempt to turn the Hundred into a part-time urban music festival never really fired. Half-time acts and DJs appropriated from BBC radio went largely ignored in the grounds and it looked a rough gig for the performers, as they watched their audience disappear to the food trucks. But the tracks that covered the change of ends always drove the younger audience wild, and the encouragement to get up and dance in their seats helped them engage across a three-hour time slot that’s not inconsiderable for young attention spans. We also learned that you can floss and signal four at the same time, which is definitely one for the umpires next year.
8) London Spirit need a new name
Spirit seemed the one thing lacking in their multi‑defeat campaign. Luckily there are plenty of alternatives to choose from, including London Dry, London Prices, London Measures, London Weighting, London Buses, London Pigeons, London Pride and London Riots.
9) Intentions are powerful
The ECB’s decision to make cricket more appealing for women and kids did actually attract women and kids to the game. Yes, a revised Blast could have done the same, but it didn’t, and the T20 night games and finals had become intimidating lads-go-large affairs. When the Lord’s games started to get a bit boozy at the start of the tournament, bars were closed early and rules were changed to stop alcohol being brought into the ground. Now the ECB needs to make its intention the immediate fix of their disastrous summer scheduling, which is already destroying their number one brand, the England men’s Test team.
10) The Hundred will change the language of the game
Batsmen are batters now, because you have to be gender neutral when you’ve got women’s and men’s games on the same stage. And we really are stuck with matchups.