The Hundred: Cricket’s controversial new format is challenging the game’s status quo

The competition will be launched next week, but not everyone is convinced of its benefits. (The Hundred)
The competition will be launched next week, but not everyone is convinced of its benefits. (The Hundred)
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Updated 15 July 2021

The Hundred: Cricket’s controversial new format is challenging the game’s status quo

The competition will be launched next week, but not everyone is convinced of its benefits. (The Hundred)
  • The competition will be launched next week, but not everyone is convinced of its benefits

LONDON: Next week, on July 21, with much fanfare and no less controversy, the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) will launch a new competition, called The Hundred. It will be contested only in England and Wales, by both men’s and women’s teams. It is so named because each team is scheduled to bowl 100 balls, divided into 10 overs of 10 balls each. This is its first controversial feature.

During the era covered in last week’s column, 18th-century England, when the Laws of Cricket were first codified and written down, one of the specified duties of the umpire was to call over when four fair deliveries had been bowled by the same person. This call indicated that the field should change over and the ball be delivered from the other end of the pitch by a different person.

Four balls per over remained the case until 1889, when a revision of the 1884 Code increased it to five. A further revision in 1900 increased an over to six balls, which allowed bowlers longer to develop a tactical plan.

In the 1922-23 season, Australia chose to play eight-ball overs, to encourage more balls to be bowled in a day’s play and less time wasted in changing overs. Other countries — New Zealand, England, South Africa and Pakistan — flirted with this number for short spells. Australia reverted to six balls in 1978-79 when commercial television acquired the rights to televise cricket and a shorter over allowed the opportunity for more advertising to be shown.

Despite the successful introduction of 50 over and T20 cricket, six-ball overs, delivered by one person, have remained a constant for over 40 years around the world. The Hundred will challenge the status quo.

One bowler is not required to deliver all 10 balls in an over since there is the opportunity to split the over into two sets of five deliveries, bowled by two different bowlers. Each bowler can deliver a maximum of 20 balls per game. The duration of each match is scheduled to be two and a half hours.

A second controversial feature is how it may affect existing competitions. Starting on July 21 and ending with a final on Aug. 21, it will be dovetailed, with the schedules for an established domestic 50 overs competition that has its final on Aug. 22 and a five-match Test match series between England and India. This does risk spreading the body of domestic cricketers and spectators too thinly, a risk that has been heightened by continuing incidences of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) among both entities.

Specific concern has been expressed about the impact on T20 cricket, which was introduced in 2003 to attract younger audiences and a higher proportion of women. T20 has been a success throughout the cricket-playing world and has provided a vehicle for the growth of cricket in countries and communities not noted for having an interest in the game.

The third controversy has centered on the ECB’s rationale for The Hundred, which emerged out of research into attitudes toward cricket commissioned by the board. Based on a sample of over 100,000 people in the UK, the findings estimated that there are 10.5 million followers who are interested in the game, but only slightly more than 1 million who attend matches. The core audience was identified as mainly white, affluent, middle-aged male, with an average age of 50. At the same time, the number of people playing the game in England was shown to be falling.

As many organizers of teams at the club level in the UK will attest, attracting and keeping the interest of young people in cricket can be a thankless task, given the ever-growing, competing alternatives for their time and attention. The ECB believes that there is a new audience of women, children and families, who will be attracted by the simplicity, speed and accessibility of The Hundred.

Issues that gave rise to T20 have worsened according to the ECB’s research findings, to the point where it appears to be undergoing an existential crisis and is staking its future on the new competition. The British cricketing press commented unfavorably when the news broke in 2019, wondering why so much change should be imposed so quickly.

A fourth controversy relates to the decision to focus on eight teams of men and eight teams of women who will contest the competition based in seven cities — London (two teams), Nottingham, Leeds, Manchester, Birmingham, Cardiff and Southampton. The 15/16 person squads were purchased via a “draft,” with three overseas players permitted and one British centrally contracted player for the men’s teams. In the men’s competition, there will be no Indian cricketers as they are not allowed by their governing body to participate in any franchised competition outside of India. 

The three existing formats of the professional game are based on 18 of the 92 counties — administrative units — that have long underpinned the culture, geography and heritage of the UK. Strong views have been expressed that The Hundred is an attempt by the ECB to loosen the grip of the county cricket boards. Unsurprisingly, there was much opposition among the counties to The Hundred when it was announced, especially by those who would not be hosting a franchise. The ECB addressed this by pledging to give each county £1.3 million ($1.8 million) from the proceeds of the new competition.

Another palliative is that the prize money on offer of £600,000 is to be divided equally between the men’s and women’s teams. This equality does not extend to salaries. These will be in a range of £3,600 to £15,000 for women compared with £30,000 to £125,000 for men.

The players, possibly other than those not drafted, appear to have bought into the concept. Battle lines have been drawn for a risky and controversial incursion into England’s traditional cricket heartland and, perhaps, even more widely on the international stage if The Hundred proves to confound critics who suggest that it is one product too many.


Zhang Boheng wins all-around final at gymnastics worlds

Zhang  Boheng wins all-around final at gymnastics worlds
Updated 22 October 2021

Zhang Boheng wins all-around final at gymnastics worlds

Zhang  Boheng wins all-around final at gymnastics worlds
  • Zhang became the first Chinese men’s all-around world champion since Xiao Ruoteng in 2017

KITAKYUSHU, Japan: Zhang Boheng of China edged out Olympic champion Daiki Hashimoto on Friday to win the gold medal in the men’s all-around at the Gymnastics World Championships.

Zhang, who did not qualify for China’s team for this summer’s Olympics, held a slim lead over local favorite Hashimoto heading into the final apparatus, the horizontal bar — an event Hashimoto won at the Tokyo Games.

Zhang scored 14.800 points while Hashimoto received 15.133 but it wasn’t enough to erase the deficit and the 21-year-old Zhang finished with 87.981 overall points to 87.964 for Hashimoto.

“This is my first time to take part in the world championships and the first time to win the all-around title for my country,” Zhang said. “I was nervous waiting for the scores to appear because it was so close, such a high-level competition.”

Zhang became the first Chinese men’s all-around world champion since Xiao Ruoteng in 2017.

Illia Kovtun of Ukraine was third with 84.899 points, followed by Yul Moldauer of the US with 84.365.

Hashimoto was aiming to become Japan’s fifth men’s world champion and its first since Kohei Uchimura won the last of his six straight titles in 2015.

Hashimoto’s performance on the horizontal bar was solid but he stepped to his left on the landing which likely cost him the gold medal.

“(Zhang) was great tonight,” Hashimoto said. “There is no question he is world No. 1. I knew I had to put in a perfect performance on the horizontal bar and that was difficult to do.”

Zhang had the top score on the floor exercise, the vault and the parallel bars, while finishing second-best on the rings and horizontal bar, the only apparatus where Hashimoto led the field. Both Hashimoto and Zhang suffered falls on the pommel horse.

At 19, Hashimoto became the youngest man ever to win the Olympic all-around title, at the Tokyo Games.

Defending champion Nikita Nagornyy of Russia did not travel to Japan for the worlds.

The world championships wrap up with individual event finals on Saturday and Sunday. There is no team competition in the world championships immediately after an Olympic Games.

Hashimoto will compete in the floor exercise, pommel horse, parallel bars, and horizontal bar this weekend. Zhang will compete in the finals on still rings and parallel bars.


Saint-Etienne match delayed after fans bombard and invade pitch

Saint-Etienne match delayed after fans bombard and invade pitch
Updated 22 October 2021

Saint-Etienne match delayed after fans bombard and invade pitch

Saint-Etienne match delayed after fans bombard and invade pitch
  • The latest in a series of incidents involving fans in and around Ligue 1 games this season started during the player warm up ahead of the scheduled 9pm kick off
  • Fans unfurled banners, let off a barrage of rockets and smoke bombs and invaded the pitch, damaging the goals.

SAINT-ETIENNE, France: The kick off in the Ligue 1 match between Saint Etienne and visiting Angers was delayed for an hour by protests from home fans angry at their team’s dire form.
The latest in a series of incidents involving fans in and around Ligue 1 games this season started during the player warm up ahead of the scheduled 9pm (1900 GMT) kick off.
Fans unfurled banners, let off a barrage of rockets and smoke bombs and invaded the pitch, damaging the goals.
Fans unfurled banners attacking coach Claude Puel, club leadership and the players.
“We’ve had enough talk, you’re making us crack” said one visible through the smoke.
“Puel resign,” “management resign” and “we want a team worthy of its fans” chanted the fans.
The players left the field and kick off was put back as municipal workers repaired the nets at the city-owned Geoffroy-Guichard stadium.
Saint-Etienne are last in Ligue 1, winless after 11 matches.
On Thursday, fans hung a banner on the gates of the training center which said: “Puel, you have 24 hours to resign.”
The latest incidents come just two days after the league disciplinary committee imposed a two-match suspended closure of the stadium’s south stand after incidents during the derby against Lyon on October 3.
A season of angry fans in France opened with a match between Nice and Marseille abandoned on August 22.
That was followed by a string of incidents in September.
The northern derby between Lens and Lille was overshadowed by a pitch invasion that delayed the start of the second half.
The next weekend, supporters invaded the pitch at the game between Angers and Marseille, while stones were thrown at a bus taking Bordeaux fans to their match in Montpellier, with 16 suffering minor injuries.
Nice were deducted a point. Lens were ordered to play home matches behind closed doors.


Qatar opens fifth 2022 World Cup venue

Qatar opens fifth 2022 World Cup venue
Updated 22 October 2021

Qatar opens fifth 2022 World Cup venue

Qatar opens fifth 2022 World Cup venue
  • The launch of Al Thumama stadium comes as the Gulf country seeks to operate arenas at 100 percent capacity during the World Cup
  • Qatar has so far officially inaugurated 5 of the 8 stadiums that will lay the stage for the first World Cup in the Middle East

DOHA: Qatar inaugurated on Friday its fifth stadium for the 2022 World Cup, welcoming thousands of spectators who have either recently recovered from coronavirus or have been vaccinated.
The launch of the Al Thumama stadium, 12 kilometers (7.5 miles) south of the capital Doha, comes as the Gulf country seeks to operate arenas at 100 percent capacity during the World Cup.
The 40,000-seat ground, which will host groups matches during Qatar 2022 up to the quarter-finals, hosted the domestic Emir Cup final between local clubs Al Rayyan and Al Sadd as its inaugural match.
Qatar’s ruler Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani and FIFA president Gianni Infantino attended the opening ceremony.
It was designed by Qatari architect Ibrahim M. Jaidah to resemble the ‘gahfiya’ cap, traditionally worn by men in the region.
Energy-rich Qatar has so far officially inaugurated five of the eight stadiums that will lay the stage for the first World Cup in the Middle East.
In addition to Al Thumama, Qatar has so far inaugurated new-build Ahmad Bin Ali, Al-Janoub and Education City stadiums alongside the refurbished Khalifa ground in the heart of Doha’s Aspire Zone.
Ras Abu Aboud, Al Bayt, Lusail, which will host the final match in December 2022, remain to be opened.
Following the World Cup, Al Thumama’s capacity will be reduced to 20,000, with a sports clinic and a boutique hotel set to open on site.
Fans were able to apply for tickets to Friday’s event if they either tested positive for virus antibodies, or have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19.
Qatar, which says it vaccinated more than three quarters of its 2.75 million population, has recorded more than 238,000 infections since the beginning of the pandemic.


Jones takes charge of Newcastle games during new manager search

Jones takes charge of Newcastle games during new manager search
Updated 22 October 2021

Jones takes charge of Newcastle games during new manager search

Jones takes charge of Newcastle games during new manager search
  • Graeme Jones confirmed Friday he has been asked to take charge of the next two Premier League games
  • Jones feels Newcastle supporters have plenty to look forward to under the club’s ambitious new owners

NEWCASTLE: Amanda Staveley and Mehrdad Ghodoussi have assured Newcastle United interim manager Graeme Jones he has a long-term future at the football club.

The Magpies have been working their way through a list of managerial candidates, following the “mutual consent” departure of Steve Bruce on Wednesday.

And on Friday, assistant Jones, promoted to the top job for the next two games, spoke of his pride at being handed the reins on a temporary basis at his boyhood club.

Ahead of the trip to Crystal Palace, former England coach Jones revealed his midweek meeting with PCP Capital Partners’ Staveley and Ghodoussi, who collectively own 10 percent of the football club, brought more than the news of his temporary promotion.

Jones said: “I spoke to the owners on Wednesday morning, and obviously they asked me to take the team on an interim basis for the next two games, Crystal Palace (tomorrow) and Chelsea at home (on Saturday, Oct. 30).

“As I’ve said previously, I’m fully focused on preparing the team as best I can, and being competitive in games.”

Jones, whose only managerial experience came during an ill-fated spell at Championship outfit Luton Town in 2019/20, continued: “I’ve had assurances, I have spoken to Mehrdad and I’ve spoken to Amanda — and I’ve been given assurances on my long-term future.

“My short-term thought process is about what I can do, this weekend and next Saturday. I think it is important for everyone going forward, I can give my genuine best in any role I’m given, starting tomorrow at Crystal Palace.”

Jones, at this stage at least, has made it clear he does not want to take the job on a permanent basis. It is unlikely he’d be offered those terms anyway, instead he would be integrated into a new coach’s model.

“I am very happy,” he said of his role at United. “I was very happy working as an assistant here. I am here just to give my best. Everything I have got for this football club, and I mean that.

“Of course, the level of responsibility has gone up.The gaffer (Bruce) has always trusted myself, Aggers and Clem to do things in the week, but now you have to pick the team. That’s what’s changed. I’ve obviously had to give that a little bit of thought.”

Newcastle United sit 19th in the Premier League table heading into this weekend’s round of fixtures.

A win over Patrick Vieira’s Eagles would see United potentially climb out of the top-flight relegation zone.

The Magpies are yet to win any of their opening eight games of the Premier League season.


Man City fan in ‘stable’ condition in hospital after attack

Man City fan in ‘stable’ condition in hospital after attack
Updated 22 October 2021

Man City fan in ‘stable’ condition in hospital after attack

Man City fan in ‘stable’ condition in hospital after attack
  • Five men were arrested after the incident that left the 63-year-old City fan hospitalized
  • The five men were brought before a judge in the city of Ghent on Thursday

BRUGGE, Belgium: Manchester City’s supporter who was attacked on his way home from the team’s Champions League match against Club Brugge in Belgium has been upgraded to “stable” condition though he remains in a coma, prosecutors said.
Five men were arrested after the incident that left 63-year-old City fan Guido De Pauw, who is Belgian, hospitalized after being attacked in a parking lot at a service station late Tuesday after City’s 5-1 win.
One suspect was charged with theft with violence and theft with aggravated violence, another with intentional beatings and incapacitating injuries, and all five with culpable negligence, the East Flanders prosecutor’s office said in a statement released Friday.
The five men were brought before a judge in the city of Ghent on Thursday. Three have been released under strict conditions, including a ban on attending soccer matches, and two remained detained, prosecutors said.
Prosecutors said Wednesday De Pauw had “life-threatening injuries.” In their latest update, they said he was “still in a coma but his condition is now stable.”
City has said the club is working with police in Belgium and Manchester to establish more information about the incident.
City manager Pep Guardiola appeared at a news conference on Friday wearing a T-shirt that had the message, ‘We’re with you, Guido.”
“In the last hours he is getting better and of course he has all of the support from the club on what they need for the investigation,” Guardiola said.
“A big hug for him and all his family. We wish that soon he will come back to Etihad Stadium.”