It's Not Just Cricket

It's Not Just Cricket

The Hundred arrives in Birmingham this month. What the blazes is it?

I could have interviewed any number of world class cricketers for this feature on The Hundred, which runs for a month from July 21. Birmingham Phoenix's Moeen Ali and Amy Jones were available, as was Trent Rockets' Joe Root. But trust me, none of them would have the sheer endless patience to explain to me, a total cricketing ignoramus, what on Earth it is and how it'll change the face of the sport forever. Only one man could do that. Someone who's shown 41 years of forbearance when faced with my, shall we say, lack of leather on willow enlightenment. Ladies and gentleman, I give you... my brother, Matt.

You've convinced me to go to a match with you and I don't know anything except both teams in a match get 100 balls, right?
Yeah, and whoever gets the most runs in those 100 balls wins. And this ‘Hundred’ format has never happened before in the history of cricket, it's brand new.

And is the thinking to try and make cricket more exciting than, say, a five day test that can end in a draw?
Yes. Exactly. At the moment, the shortest form of cricket in the game is T20 and that can still take three and a half hours. The Hundred will be more like two and half hours a game. You don't have to invest all your life into it, you know? You can go on an evening. It will be more family orientated, [editor's note - there’s live DJs, music and entertainment, with artists like Brum’s own Lady Leshurr performing]. The cricket will be properly exciting because the pressure is really on to be hitting fours and sixes very regularly. Smashing the ball. A batsman can't come in and play safe to get a feel for the wicket, or a feel for the where the fielders are. They’ve got to be walloping the ball from the get-go.

That sounds pretty cool.
And there's so much we don't really know about it because it's never been played before. So we don't really know what a good target would be for the first team to set.

How many teams are there?
Eight teams [above] and in Birmingham, at Edgbaston stadium, will be Birmingham Phoenix. Who you now support. 

Are Birmingham Phoenix’s players all from Warwickshire? 
No. There was a draft for players to take part in The Hundred, like the NFL, which means some of the best players in the world are playing, and not necessarily at their nearest club. There will be three overseas players in each team, alongside some of the country’s best domestic players.

So who have we got playing?
There are World Cup winners in both our men’s and women’s teams, the likes of Moeen Ali [below], Chris Woakes and Amy Jones. And given there are 18 county cricket teams but only 8 teams in The Hundred, they've condensed the best players in the world — men and women — into less teams. One youngster we've got called Finn Allen, a kiwi, has the highest career strike rate of all time in T20 cricket. He scored 215 runs in his eight innings for Lancashire, and we've pinched him to play for Birmingham Phoenix.

Will Birmingham Phoenix win? I can't add another losing sports team to my life.
No, you certainly can't.  Will they win? Umm... I think that's half of the beauty of this. We don't know! Both the men's and women's teams look good — by the way prize money in the women's game is, quite rightly, exactly what it is in the men's — but Southern Brave look really strong. Ultimately this version of the sport is quite an unknown entity. Which is why it's a good time to give it chance. Get to a game and see if it makes you tick. This isn't going to be your archetypal cricket crowd. It's not all ageing men asleep with The Telegraph over their faces getting slowly sunburnt, this should be a real mix of younger people and families, attracted by both the sport and the wider entertainment. Cricket diehards and newbies. And the idea is that it will help to grow the game by getting more families to fall in love with cricket.

Will it kill off the longer form of the game?
No. Absolutely not. You like your food, right?

You know I do.
You'd like to go to Simpsons for a nine course tasting menu, yeah?

Test cricket is like the nine course tasting menu. There's a narrative to it, the chef takes you on a journey and there might be bits you’re not so keen and bits you love — it's intricate and nuanced. But The Hundred, The Hundred is like going to the Original Patty Men for a bacon cheeseburger and dirty fries. Which you also like, right?

I do.
There's room for both types of food in the world. And there's room for both types of cricket. Oh, and as an added bonus, there’s going to be plenty of food and drink on offer at The Hundred too.

Does everyone play everyone once?
Sort of. It's a round robin format, everyone plays everyone once except your local rivals who you play twice. In our case the local rivals are Trent Rockets over in Nottingham.

Am I going to be baffled by the rules?
No. You don't need to know where deep mid-wicket stands or what a jaffa is. Just the simple golden rule that each team has to get the most runs they can in 100 balls. Because this is going to be a slog-fest. Panic batting and death bowling. The pressure is right on them from the first ball to the last. You're going to enjoy it. And Brummies have got Edgbaston stadium on their door step — this beautiful amphitheatre, one of the best cricket stadiums in the country — many have yet to enjoy it. Now's the time.

Tickets start from just £12 for adults, £5 for under 16s, and under 6s go free.