The hype and speculation over The Hundred has been absolutely insane – and its COVID-induced delay definitely hasn’t helped matters – but last night at the Oval, we finally got to see what it was all about. The women kicked things off as the Manchester Originals (a.k.a. McCoy’s) took on the Oval Invincibles (a.k.a. KP); usually the group matches will be double headers, with the same franchises competing in a women’s game, followed by the men’s game, but audiences are being eased into the competition with the first two clashes being spread over two evenings.
I’ll admit that I had my doubts; red ball cricket will always be my number one priority, for one thing, and the lack of clarity over the rules & how everything would work was a tad off-putting. It might have been useful to have some sort of exhibition game to clear up any confusion over terminology, etc. but then I suppose last night’s match wouldn’t have had quite the entrance it was aiming for. I do prefer to give things a chance, unlike many snarky commenters, so I thought it was probably best that I headed to the very first game to see how it played out.
In the build-up to the match, there were a few brief films on the big screens that explained some of the rules & terminology – it was just too loud in the ground to hear most of this properly, so I hope that a programme or scorecard with a primer might materialise sooner rather than later (mostly for the benefit of complete cricket newbies). I didn’t see anything referring to the cards the umpires hold up, but eventually during the game I managed to deduce it was to signify a change in bowling. Not really sure that’s needed, especially as most people would associate a card being held up with a team being penalised in some way.
It was really interesting to see two different approaches, both batting & in the field. Oval Invincibles played around with the ‘fives’, sometimes having a bowler take all ten balls from one end and occasionally mixing & matching, whereas Manchester Originals stuck rigidly to bowlers working in fives; I’ll be intrigued to see how much tinkering goes on in other teams & other games, depending on whether batter or bowler is on top. I have to say I would have followed Dane van Niekerk’s instincts and bowled first, not knowing what a good total would be (she got her wish when Kate Cross chose to bat) – Manchester’s circumspect start did make me think they might have been a bit below par, but when Oval’s early attempts to attack cost them wickets it looked a lot more intimidating!
Linking cricket with music has definitely been tried before – for example, in the early days of domestic Twenty20 there was a big emphasis on a side’s walkout music, which has now dwindled a bit. I do like the idea of incorporating live music, as it provides a bit of variety from whatever the DJ is spinning, but at this point in my life most of the artists playing are just jumbles of random words! But it’s not really me that section is aimed at, so I can live with it – though a little more range in the tracks played to mark boundaries, etc. every now & then would be much appreciated. Inclusivity in music tastes, please!
A big plus is that it did all run pretty much to time (unlike in international or IPL fixtures) – it will be interesting to see how the men fare, as their over rates are often less efficient. I would like to see the penalty dished out at some point though (one more fielder kept inside the fielding restriction area); anything to give them an incentive to hurry up a bit. This is where bowlers taking the full 10 balls helps a bit as well, though I do think changing ends less frequently did contribute a bit too.
Once I got my eye in I was trying to make some predictions – both in the app and my own ones. By that point it was fairly obvious I was locked in. First I tried to apply the rule of doubling the score at 30 overs in Manchester’s innings; they were on 75 after 60 balls, so I suggested they should get 150 – they ended up with 135, which isn’t miles out! I was more successful right at the end, however, as I had a gut feeling with 20 balls to go that Oval would just nick it – they needed 35 at that point, and ended up chasing it down with two balls left. Smug. As. Hell.
It may end up being something that is much better to experience in person – certainly hearing the music thumping and feeling the heat from the flames (not to mention the surprise firework display as the teams took to the field) can’t be replicated through a TV screen, but that’s something that viewers will have to compare and contrast. Certainly those who go in with closed minds aren’t going to enjoy it, but that just means there’s more for the rest of us to gobble up! I already have tickets to a couple more group games, so I’ll get the double headers for them, and I’m contemplating going to the Eliminator as the final is already sold out. If there wasn’t an ongoing COVID situation then I would have definitely travelled to a couple of other locations to try and see as many of the teams as possible, but for now I’m sticking with the Oval and Lord’s. I’m excited to see what the Home of Cricket makes of this format, and I look forward to checking out the other teams on TV.