The Hundred saw a surge in support for the women's game, as well as sparked the interest of younger fansJoseph Hill

Last Friday (20/08), I attended the Hundred Eliminator at the Oval. In what was essentially a semi-final, the day saw the Oval Invincibles beat the Birmingham Phoenix in the women’s competition, while the Trent Rockets convincingly lost to the Southern Brave in the men’s fixture.

Having been to a few games previously, I knew what to expect, yet I was still not fully prepared for the sensory overload that the Hundred imposes on you. Fire erupts after each wicket, pulsating music floods the stadium on what seems like every ball, and there is an actual DJ booth where valiant presenters try to rally crowds to become increasingly rowdy. During another game I went to at the Oval, an elderly man behind me audibly tutted when the DJ tried to artificially manufacture a Mexican wave. I’m not sure what he was expecting.

“I was still not fully prepared for the sensory overload that the Hundred imposes on you”

Before the Hundred began, I was scathing about the potential for cricket to be sidelined by such an over-the-top spectacle, but the tournament has proven to be surprisingly entertaining on the field. A slight hiccup in the first few weeks, as deteriorating wickets meant low-scoring games, was followed by a carnival of cricket in the latter stages. It was a shame that the women’s final was such a damp squib in the end, with the Southern Brave only mustering 73 all out after being reduced to 29-7. On the flip side, the men’s final was more evenly matched, as the Brave won by 32 runs after Paul Stirling’s 61 from 36 balls.

One of the best things about the Hundred for me was the emergence of previously unknown cricketers onto the big stage. Standout performers such as Liam Livingstone, Adam Milne, and Dane van Niekerk are all high-profile international cricketers, but new faces have emerged like spinner Jake Lintott and 17 year-old Alice Capsey. Lintott has been described by West Indian Carlos Braithwaite as “the Jamie Vardy of cricket” due to setbacks in his early career and relatively late arrival to first-class cricket. Meanwhile, Capsey was just 16 when the tournament started, but impressed with both bat and ball as she scored 59 off 41 balls in her first game at Lord’s.

“the Hundred is a genuinely enjoyable spectacle, both in terms of the cricket on display and the upbeat atmosphere”

Another benefit of the Hundred has been the heightened exposure that women’s cricket has subsequently received. Sky streamed the entire women’s competition for free on YouTube, which meant that far more people were able to tune in. The final was attended by 17,116 fans, setting a new record for a domestic women’s cricket game anywhere in the world. Alternatively, 1.4 million people watched the women’s final on television, prompting England legend Charlotte Edwards to proclaim that the Hundred has “single handedly changed women’s cricket” in England. Young talents like Capsey were complimented by genuine star quality, from Shabnim Ismail to Jemimah Rodrigues, ensuring entertaining cricket in every fixture. The tournament provided an excellent platform for the women’s game in the UK, and hopefully the knock-on effects include increased participation at grassroots level, as well as higher attendances in the professional game.

However, the Hundred did not go without its negative aspects. The carnivalesque atmosphere is not necessarily conducive to a family-friendly day out, with crowds getting progressively more drunk as time passes. When we went to the Eliminator, a fair few people were kicked out for drunkenness, despite the Oval’s ludicrous price of £6.20(!) for a pint of Carling. There were also several instances of pitch invasions, including two separate occasions when the Brave beat the Phoenix at the Ageas Bowl. None came close to being as funny as the infamous ‘Jarvo’ at Lord’s, and were ultimately unnecessary distractions from the cricket.


Mountain View

Cambridge student Emma Jones selected by Oval Invincibles

Despite its traditionalist detractors, the Hundred is a genuinely enjoyable spectacle, both in terms of the cricket on display and the upbeat atmosphere. It has already become the England and Wales Cricket Board’s (ECB) big-ticket event, occupying the coveted scheduling spot right in the middle of the summer holidays. The T20 Blast now resumes as the Hundred’s little sibling, despite fielding much of the same personnel, while the Royal London One Day Cup final has been and gone without much fanfare. Both tournaments are far less enticing prospects, particularly for those already playing franchise cricket abroad, and I struggle to see an eventuality where the Hundred does not become an overwhelmingly dominant force in the domestic game.

Although the Hundred still has a lot to learn (getting rid of the DJ might be a start), it has delivered a fantastic summer of cricketing entertainment and is setting course to become even better next year.