Matt Maher: Hundred’s good fun, but it does have drawbacks

Attending two days of the Hundred at Edgbaston this week brought conflicting emotions.

Birmingham Phoenix's Miles Hammond (left) batting a
Birmingham Phoenix's Miles Hammond (left) batting a

The sport on show was, unquestionably, entertaining. Wednesday night’s match in the men’s tournament between Birmingham Phoenix and Oval Invincibles was genuinely thrilling.

And yet, watching spectators then file out into Birmingham’s Cannon Hill Park wearing Phoenix merchandise, it was impossible not to feel a sense of unease.

After all, there is already a team which has called Edgbaston home for 139 years and the long-term impact of the new competition on them and the other 17 first-class counties remains a concern.

The Hundred was always going to be good fun because cricket is good fun. For all the gimmicks and rule changes, the game remains the same. Though they might have knocked 3.2 overs off the length of each innings, matches have the same feel as those in the T20 Blast.

They take almost the same amount of time to play too, an important point after the ECB initially (and deceptively) claimed the reason for shortening the format was to satisfy the demands of the BBC. In fact the national broadcaster originally signed up for a T20 tournament and though the Hundred may yet prove a long-lasting commercial success, you have to wonder why the millions spent on promoting it couldn’t have been ploughed into the existing, already quite popular competition? At the very least it would have avoided the unsavoury infighting seen ever since the new tournament’s inception.

Most worrying is the impact on other formats. Today, Edgbaston will largely be empty when Warwickshire host Northants in the Royal London Cup, now redesignated a development competition where counties stripped of players called up to the Hundred have been scouring the club leagues in order to field XIs.

No doubt some exciting new talent will be unearthed but you might question how abandoning the domestic 50-over tournament will affect England’s chances in future World Cups? Judging by how the Test team has suffered after the County Championship was pushed into the margins, it does not augur particular well.

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