The Hun­dred tri­als bring cricket’s brave new world closer

The Observer - Sport - - Football -

Away from the life- affi rm­ing af­ter­glow of Eng­land’s grip­ping Test se­ries with In­dia, Sur­rey’s fi rst county ti­tle in 16 years and T20 fi nals day, cricket’s fu­ture is be­ing shaped at two empty grounds with tri­als of the new 100- ball for­mat hav­ing be­gun , writes Ali Martin .

The Hun­dred, a fi ve- week tour­na­ment fea­tur­ing eight in­vented teams and in­tended to cap­ture a sup­posed new au­di­ence , will land in the mid­dle of the sum­mer from 2020 . And to en­sure the ac­tual cricket is up to scratch, six days of test­ing is tak­ing place us­ing around 40 male and fe­male county play­ers.

These pi­lot matches got un­der way over the past cou­ple of days at Lough­bor­ough Uni­ver­sity, with women crick­eters act­ing as the fi rst tri­al­lists. The men start three straight days at Trent Bridge to­day be­fore a fi nal out­ing for the women on 27 Septem­ber , as the Eng­land and Wales Cricket Board’s cricket de­part­ment tries to de­liver a work­able for­mula from the brief handed down by the mar­ket­ing folk.

This, es­sen­tially, is to re in­vent the sport for the lay­man, break­ing down per­ceived bar­ri­ers and jar­gon . The num­ber of de­liv­er­ies will count down from 100 on the score­board as the num­ber of runs goes up .

These pi­lot days are be­ing used to ex­plore dif­fer­ent in- game sce­nar­ios and play­ing con­di­tions , with the play­ers set to then give feed­back .

Be­hind the scenes Trent Wood­hill, a free­lance Twenty20 coach , has been work­ing as a con­sul­tant and meet­ing play­ers around the coun­ties . Luke Wright, the Sus­sex T20 cap­tain, has sat in on one of Wood­hill’s sem­i­nars and as one of the coun­try’s most suc­cess­ful short- form ex­ports he hopes the crick­et­ing pub­lic keeps an open mind about The Hun­dred.

Wright told the Ob­server: “The re­sponse has been so neg­a­tive. If it’s a dis­as­ter, then slate it. But I saw the same hap­pen at the start of the Big Bash [ in Aus­tralia] and that has been a huge suc­cess.

[ The Hun­dred] could have been han­dled bet­ter but the con­cept is sound – it’s cricket but sim­plifi ed. Let’s give it a chance.”

Since the 100- ball con­cept was fi rst an­nounced there have been var­i­ous gim­micks fl oated, such as teams be­ing able to de­ploy all 15 mem­bers of their squad and the con­tin­u­ing de­bate as to how 100 de­liv­er­ies will work in a sport of six- ball overs . It is now ex­pected each in­nings will be made up of 20 fi ve- ball overs in blocks of two per end, with the op­tion of a bowler send­ing down all 10 de­liv­er­ies if on a roll . As re­gards the num­ber of play­ers, Wood­hill has told Wright it is sim­ply a case of sub­sti­tute fi el­ders be­ing per­mit­ted .

Wright, a World T20 win­ner with Eng­land in 2010, added: “Peo­ple may be cyn­i­cal and say I’m en­dors­ing it be­cause I want a gig in it. But I’ll be 35 by then. I just think it will work. ”

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