The ECB has scheduled its first trial events for its new competition, called the Hundred, at Trent Bridge for men and Loughborough for women this September, before the end of the current season.
The board announced in April that its silver bullet new competition, set to launch in the summer of 2020, would not in fact be T20, as expected, but feature 100-ball innings to differentiate it from the globally-popular format (and their own growing T20 county competition, the Vitality Blast) – with the bonus byproduct that it would provide shorter and sharper matches.
Since, they have kept their heads down as they developed the “concept”. The object of the “concept” is to make cricket simpler and attract a new audience to the game.
The scheduled pilot events mark progress in the competition’s development. The women will have a series of trial days at Loughborough in September, while the following week the men will take over for three days at Trent Bridge, which does not host any cricket between 14 and 23 September. Trent Bridge will be one of the eight host venues.
It is as yet unclear who will play in the men’s trial event. Lancashire and Nottinghamshire are the only counties who do not have any Championship cricket in the window, so can expect to be involved alongside white-ball specialists from across the country.
This exercise is designed to help determine the best way to divide 100-ball innings and the playing conditions for the competition. Consultation of players found the 10-ball over – which the ECB initially hailed as “adding a fresh tactical dimension” – met with resistance, and seems unlikely to be used. They could end up having 20 five-ball overs, or overs of differing lengths, but will make no firm decisions on playing conditions until cricketers have played the game and fed back.
The event is expected to be played behind closed doors, although some broadcasters and media could be invited.
In May, the ECB turned down an offer from Surrey, one of the counties most resistant to the concept, to host trials there in September at the Kia Oval, which is understood to still not be guaranteed to be a host venue. The ECB did not provide a reason for declining the offer.