The world of cricket experienced another seismic change this year with the arrival of the controversial Hundred tournament. It’s a colourful, sensational quick cricket format that requires imaginatively named teams to play just 100 balls of cricket per innings to reach an exciting climax. The game premiered in July 2021 with Manchester Originals taking on Oval Invincibles.

For die-hard cricket fans who thought Twenty20 was a step too far, The Hundred is not a welcome format. The #opposethe100 movement on Twitter has been vocal. However, the game has been supported by key players, including Joe Root. (Joe’s grandfather, Don, has been much less positive.) With its fast play, simple rules and brightly coloured uniforms, it is hoped that The Hundred will attract a new generation of cricket fans.

There have been concerns in recent years that smartphones and social media are diminishing people’s attention spans, especially in kids. Whether or not that’s actually the case, The Hundred definitely seems to be tapping into this zeitgeist.

A game typically lasts only two-and-a-half hours, making it much closer in terms of time investment to a footie match. As we all know, here in the UK football has always been the more popular sport to watch and play, and cricket execs clearly want to give the other game a run for its money.

But is a shorter, faster game of cricket really the best way to draw in new young fans?

First, let’s take a look at the details of the format for those who haven’t experienced it yet.

cricket stadium

The rules of The Hundred

  • Each team plays 100 balls per innings.
  • Bowlers deliver either five or 10 consecutive balls, changing ends every 10 balls.
  • Each bowler can deliver a maximum of 20 balls per game.
  • There’s a 25-ball powerplay period at the start of each innings. As in Twenty20 and one-day formats, this ruling restricts fielding placements, thus giving the batting side an opportunity to start scoring big straight away.
  • No-balls are worth two runs and a free hit.
  • Teams can call strategic time-outs of up to two-and-a-half minutes.

The rules of the game are designed to make it fast and furious. There’s an emphasis on encouraging batters to go for big hits and score runs as fast as possible.

The 2021 tournament

This year’s tournament featured eight teams, each with a men’s and women’s XI. The teams were:

Rather than the traditional county-based teams, The Hundred teams are named for major UK cities.

The tournament was split into four stages - league, knockout, semi-final and final. There were 64 matches in the league stage, with each team playing four matches at home and four away. The top three teams from the league then went head-to-head in the knockout phase. The second and third teams thrashed it out in the semi-final at the Oval. The winner of the semi-final met the winner of the knockout phase in the final at Lord’s.

This year, Oval Invincibles won the women’s tournament, and Southern Brave won the men’s tournament. The final rankings are as follows (sources: ESPN Cricinfo, Sky Sports):

Women

Pos

Team

Pld

W

L

T

NR

Pts

NRR

1

SB

8

7

1

0

0

14

1.056

2

OI (*)

8

4

3

0

1

9

0.015

3

BP

8

4

4

0

0

8

0.186

4

LS

8

4

4

0

0

8

0.046

5

MO

8

3

4

0

1

7

0.016

6

NS

8

3

4

0

1

7

-0.041

7

TR

8

3

4

0

1

7

-0.293

8

WF

8

2

6

0

0

4

-1.017

(*) Tournament champion

 

Men

Pos

Team

Pld

W

L

T

NR

Pts

NRR

1

BP

8

6

2

0

0

12

1.087

2

SB (*)

8

5

2

0

1

11

0.034

3

TR

8

5

3

0

0

10

0.035

4

OI

8

4

3

0

1

9

0.123

5

NS

8

3

4

0

1

7

0.510

6

MO

8

2

4

0

2

6

-0.361

7

WF

8

3

5

0

0

6

-0.827

8

LS

8

1

6

0

1

3

-0.641

(*) Tournament champion

 

cricket ball on pitch

Player highlights

There was a mix of new and familiar names making a mark in this year’s tournament, and it’s fair to say Liam Livingstone of Birmingham Phoenix dominated the men’s batting. Here are some of the highlights:

 

Women - batting

Most runs

Dane van Niekerk (OI), 259

Highest individual score

Jemimah Rodrigues (NS), 92*

Most 50s

Jemimah Rodrigues (NS), 3

Most 6s

Sammy-Jo Johnson (TR) 7

Best strike rate

Danielle Gibson (LS), 180.0 

Best average

Harmanpreet Kaur (MO), 52.0

Women - bowling

Most wickets

Tash Farrant (OI), 18

Best bowling figures

Marizanne Kapp (OI), 4/9

Best economy

Lucy Higham (TR), 4.0

Best strike rate

Lucy Higham (TR), 7.5

Men - batting

Most runs

Liam Livingstone (BP), 348

Highest individual score

Liam Livingstone (BP), 92*

Most 50s

Liam Livingstone (BP), 3

Most 6s

Liam Livingstone (BP), 27

Best strike rate

Liam Livingstone (BP), 178.46

Best average

Zak Crawley (LS), 64.0

Men - bowling

Most wickets

Adam Milne (BP), 12

Best bowling figures

Marchant de Lange (TR), 5/20

Best economy

Adam Milne (BP), 4.78

Best strike rate

Wahab Riaz (TR), 5.0

 

What’s great about The Hundred?

One thing the tournament has been applauded for is the publicity it’s given to the women’s game. The men’s and women’s versions of the tournament were played side-by-side with equal weighting and the same number of games.

In most cases, a single ticket allowed crowds to watch two back-to-back games, with a mix of men's and women’s matches. There was also equal media coverage of both men’s and women’s teams, which has helped bring a number of women players to the forefront. It’s just been announced that women players’ salaries will be more than doubled for the tournament next year.

The fact that the game is giving young people the chance to see great women players in action, and with equal importance, is fantastic. It’s hoped that this will inspire more girls to get into cricket at the grassroots level.

Another benefit of The Hundred is the ratio of matches to results. This format produces far more results than it does ties and no-results, giving the crowd a more satisfying conclusion. Aside from the matches that were rained-off, every game produced a winner this season.

It’s easy to see why The Hundred has been a hit this summer. It’s accessible, simple to understand and fun to watch. It’s also a great platform for the women’s game. But as many cricket purists are asking, is it even really cricket? It is, after all, a far cry from Test cricket. Are we sacrificing something fundamental by embracing formats like The Hundred?

Admiring the skill and tenacity of a batter lasting a whole day against a hostile bowling attack whilst scoring only a handful of runs can be just as rewarding as watching someone hit six sixes in a row. Are we losing appreciation for these less thrilling feats of cricket heroism by favouring short formats?

The greatest hope is that formats like The Hundred will give newcomers to cricket a love for the sport that will lead them to embrace all aspects of it, including the traditional game. For now, we’re just happy to see cricket grounds full again, and we’re excited for whatever the next season brings.