Bowled over: How we learned to love The Hundred
With Welsh Fire in action tonight against Southern Brave as The Hundred returns for a second year, we revisit this piece written by David Owens last August looking back at the inaugural season of this colourful new cricket competition
How do you sum up The Hundred – the new limited overs competition that has added a splash of colour to the cricket season.
For me, it was a moment during Wednesday evening’s epic bottom of the table clash between Welsh Fire and London Spirit.
Welsh Fire’s Glenn Phillips, the Kiwi batsman who typified the game’s signature thrills and spills, was in the act of hitting the ball so ferociously you would believe he possessed Thor’s hammer rather than a cricket bat.
As his side chased down the opposition’s total you could only think he was sent from Asgard rather than his native New Zealand.
In a titanic tussle, a showdown featuring big hits and constantly fluctuating fortunes, there was one person in the crowd that the cameras repeatedly picked up on.
She was a lady of, ahem, advanced dotage, who to not put too fine a point on it, was having the time of her life.
Celebrating every Welsh Fire boundary with all the excitement of a big win at the bingo, she waved her hands in the air (like she just didn’t care) and generally exemplified why the game has been the big hit (literally and metaphorically) of the summer.
Enticing the sorts of people to watch a game of cricket who many have never ventured into a ground previously, whose innocent joy and utter enjoyment has been such a delight, underlines how The Hundred has sourced a whole new audience for this form of cricket.
It typified everything that was refreshing about a format, which has reinvigorated the game.
Most games have been exciting spectacles, many decided with the final 10 balls to be bowled in front of packed crowds generating the sort of noise rarely seen at cricket matches outside the test arena.
However, where those test matches may well be boisterous, inebriated affairs presided over by a barmy army of half cut blokes in fancy dress, The Hundred’s thrilling atmosphere has come courtesy of all ages.
Say what you like about The Hundred, and many people have, but I’ve loved this format, especially the way it has showcased the women’s game and captured the imagination of kids and their families, the young and the old.
By the second week of this five week tournament it was reported that teams had sold out of their merchandise and were making three times the projected revenues that were forecast before The Hundred started.
There was much scepticism that this form of franchise cricket – while promising world-class players populating eight brand new city-based women’s and men’s teams – would be a success.
By the time it culminates in the grand final of the men’s and women’s tournament at Lord’s this weekend, it will rank as an unmitigated triumph.
Much of that can be attributed to innovation – on and off the pitch.
Technological advancement like helmet cameras, offering a world of new angles to view the game, team uniforms – the iridescent hue of which has rarely been seen outside a staging of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat – have brought a sense of futuristic fun to a game that oft times has struggled with its staid image.
Then there are the sponsors. Each team’s shirt bearing the logo of a snack brand – has come as a welcome relief from the force-fed diet of gambling adverts that are so unavoidable at football matches. That said I could murder a bag of Hula Hoops and my desire for Tyrrells kettle chips has risen exponentially during the last month.
Off the pitch, the exemplary entertainment laid on between innings from music acts courtesy of BBC Introducing has seen rising Welsh stars such as The Himalayas, Juice Menace, Afro Cluster and Rachel K Collier being offered a sizeable stage for their equally substantial talents.
Also a big mention to Welsh DJ duo GRL TLK who have become the cult stars of the tournament, spinning the platters that matter and generally being a force of nature.
We’re not sure who’s having the better time here…@GRLTLKDJS in the DJ booth, or @CharlesDagnall and @darensammy88 in the commentary box! 🕺😂#TheHundred pic.twitter.com/sS8TiQ971C
— The Hundred (@thehundred) August 6, 2021
The doom-mongers and the naysayers may decry that The Hundred will hasten the decline of the traditional Test match and county game, but I believe the reverse to be true. It has blown the cobwebs away, opening cricket up to a far wider audience, encouraging kids to explore what the game has to offer.
The Hundred has also placed the women’s game squarely on an even footing with their male counterparts. Staging the women’s and men’s games together has been a masterstroke. It has allowed the women the opportunity to play in front of the largest crowds they’ve ever encountered, acting as a wonderful showcase for their skills and no doubt inspiring a new generation of girls.
On Wednesday evening at Sophia Gardens, the final game of The Hundred group matches brought about a story that transcended cricket.
When Welsh Fire’s Afghanistan international Qais Ahmad hit the winning runs it made the evening all the sweeter, while offering a moment of rare poignancy.
💥 @imqaisahmadd hits the winning runs for Welsh Fire!
Listen to that Cardiff crowd! 🙌 #TheHundred pic.twitter.com/3xYYION9nN
— The Hundred (@thehundred) August 18, 2021
It was a testament to the commitment to his team that he played at all, with concern mounting about his family back home in Kabul amidst the takeover of the country by the Taliban.
It was also a salient reminder that the freedoms we take for granted, to live our lives the way we choose, are not afforded to everybody.
- Find out more about The Hundred HERE
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I’m not interested in some minority English game, but I really want some hula hoops now