The Hundred: All You Need To Know About ECB's New & Unique 100-Ball Tournament
Back in 2016, the England & Wales Cricket Board (ECB) proposed the idea of 100-ball cricket following discussion between the 18 first-class counties, the Professional Cricketers' Association (PCA) and the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC). A year later, the ECB voted to approve the proposal of the city-based competition. And, earlier this year, the unique tournament was finally announced by the ECB.
Slated to begin from 17th July next year, the tournament will witness eight city-based teams, both a men's and women's side, competing over a 38-day period. Each team will play four home matches and as many away games (thereby playing their closest rival twice in a format similar to the Big Bash League) in a 32-match league stage before the playoffs.
Top four teams, at the conclusion of the league stage, will enter the playoffs. The top two teams play each other and the winner will progress to the final. The loser of that match will play against the winner of the game between the teams that finished third and fourth in the league for a second spot in the final - something we have already seen in the Indian Premier League (IPL).
But, it is the unique format of 'The Hundred' that has got the world of cricket curious. The new competition will see each team bowling 100 balls, 20 deliveries shorter than a T20, in an innings. The 100 balls can be bowled in blocks of five or 10 by bowlers, who have the option of switching ends halfway through a 10-ball spell.
Also, the bowlers are restricted to bowl a maximum of 20 deliveries in a match, with each fielding side allowed a 15-second tactical timeout. There is a batting powerplay which will be imposed for the first 25 deliveries, wherein only two fielders will be allowed outside the 30-yard circle. What's more exciting is that there is no 40-minute interval for lunch, which means the second innings will automatically begin soon after the first.
When it comes to the squads, each team is comprised of a 15-man squad, with a maximum of three overseas players. Just like other franchise-based tournaments, a draft system will ensure the signing of players for 'The Hundred'. Two of the fifteen players in each team will come from the pool of players who performed well in the T20 Blast (the ECB's premier T20 competition) and, at least, one England Test player will be signed to each of the eight teams.
On 3rd October, the initial players allocated to the eight teams were announced. Birmingham Phoenix boast of Chris Woakes, Moeen Ali and Pat Brown (for men's team), and Amy Jones and Kirstie Gordon (for the women's team). Rory Burns, Dan Lawrence and Eoin Morgan will be seen donning the London Spirit jersey for men's side and Heather Knight and Freya Davies will carry the baton for the women's team.
The Manchester Originals team will see the likes of Jos Buttler, Saqib Mahmood and Matt Parkinson playing for the men's side, and, Kate Cross and Sophie Ecclestone for the women's side. Northern Superchargers have Ben Stokes, Adil Rashid and David Willey representing their men's team, while Lauren Winfield and Linsey Smith will be seen in their women's side.
Oval Invincibles have secured the services of Sam Curran, Tom Curran and Jason Roy, and, the likes of Laura Marsh and Fran Wilson will play for their women's team. Jofra Archer, Chris Jordan and James Vince will be seen in Southern Brave's men's team and Anya Shrubsole and Danni Wyatt will play for their women's team.
Trent Rockets have the likes of Joe Root, Harry Gurney and Alex Hales (for men's team), and, Nat Sciver and Katherine Brunt (for women's team). Last, but not least, Welsh Fire's men's team will have Jonny Bairstow, Tom Banton and Colin Ingram, while their women's side will include Katie George and Bryony Smith.
The main draft, that'll take place on 20th October, will see the eight teams - from Birmingham, Cardiff, Leeds, London (two teams), Manchester, Nottingham and Southampton - filling their 15-man squads by picking from a host of English stars, international big-hitters and the most exciting upcoming players.
While overseas picks are limited to three, there are no restrictions on the number of players from a county or country. Each team will pick 12 players at the draft, with the two icon players, and one 'wildcard' pick, made during next year's T20 Blast, taking the total up to 15. There are seven set salary bands, with up to two players to be picked at each of the following: £125,000, £100,000, £75,000, £60,000, £50,000, £40,000 and £30,000. On the other hand, the captains of the eight teams will also receive a bonus of £10,000.
The team drawn to pick first will select first in the opening round and last in the second round. Each team will have 100 seconds to pick each player, and the draft will take place over the course of two and a half hours in total - similar to the duration of 'The Hundred' matches.
It is unquestionably a bold move by the ECB, which pioneered the T20 format in 2003 but has since seen the Blast fall behind the IPL and Australia's Big Bash League in terms of international recognition and prestige, even if crowds have grown significantly year on year. While many experts have questioned the ECB's upcoming tournament, its unique format and rules surely make for an exciting watch.