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Crisp new Hundred has a ‘build it and they will come’ flavour

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“Build it and they will come.” So goes the Field of Dreams mentality that seems to be underpinning the ECB’s bold gamble with the Hundred, which still sounds like a dystopian futurescape survivalist gameshow – and to those tweeting with the #OpposeTheHundred hashtag on Sunday evening, that is exactly what this thin-edge-of-the-wedge exercise in marginalising the county game is.

Nevertheless, the scaffolding is in place and an army of eager hands are scurrying about their business – nowhere more obviously than at Sky’s studios in west London, where a bespoke set had been constructed for the televisual extravaganza that was the Hundred draft. A black runway stencilled with neon runes and flanked by eight brightly lit plinths at which the decision-makers sat hunched over their touchscreens, picking and choosing their way through seven increasingly slick rounds of squad building.

This was all an event in itself, some nine months ahead of cricket’s newest format being launched in the English summer of 2020. Sky threw open the doors – after a certain amount of security vetting – to the great and the not-so-good of the UK cricket media, as well as the “influencers” whom it is hoped will bring access to a brand-new fan base. Nothing says “we are taking this seriously” like asking in advance for journalists’ dietary requirements (which are normally limited to “anything we can scoff”).

Speaking of scoff, there were the obligatory offerings from the competition’s snack-giant sponsor; appropriate, given the whole concept of the Hundred is product placement on a grand scale.

Also read: Hundred boosts England’s bid to retain World Cup – Root

Does the public want the product? That question won’t have an answer for a while yet, but we are now firmly on the route march to 100-ball cricket. Ever since the surprise/botched – delete according to prejudice – announcement in April 2018 of the ECB’s wheeze to grow the game, momentum has been slowly gathering. From promoted content lurking in social media feeds to being discussed on BBC Radio 4’s Women’s Hour, as it was last week, the Hundred is coalescing before our eyes.

“May you live in interesting times,” as the apocryphal Chinese curse has it. And there was undoubtedly plenty of interest in what amounted to a path-breaking moment – the first player draft ever to be held in UK sport. It may not have had the decadence of the IPL auction (the top price bracket for a contract was a mere £125,000) or the sheer grandiosity of the NFL draft, which Sky had sent presenter Ian Ward to observe in order to pick up tips, but it had a certain heft and zing of its own as the eight newly minted teams came together.

Not that there weren’t some issues during the somewhat frenetic opening rounds. Trent Rockets, who had drawn the right to first pick, took around 15 of the allotted 100 seconds to confirm their preference for Rashid Khan – and then they were off, a domino effect of causality as each team’s management, usually including an analyst or data guru, scanned the ever-diminishing list of options and those on the Sky sofas struggled to come up with incisive commentary – mostly consisting of “So who should these guys pick?” “Would you have picked him?” and “That’s a good pick” on sugar-buzzed repeat.

The fact that some of the slots – each team had two picks at seven different price bands, from £125,000 down to £30,000 – had already been filled by the ‘local icons’, selected behind closed doors earlier this month, contributed to the confusion. As the camera skipped quickly from Manchester Originals to London Spirit to Birmingham Phoenix, then suddenly back to Simon Katch’s Originals (because Spirit and Phoenix had previously signed up Eoin Morgan and Moeen Ali), it became a struggle to keep up.

It was at this point the Manchester hierarchy slipped in what was probably the most astonishing selection of the night, taking Lancashire captain (and Kolpak qualified “local”) Dane Vilas for £125,000 despite his not having set a reserve price. But no time to discuss that because Steve Smith! Mujeeb Ur Rahman! David Warner! D’Arcy Short! On we go!

To be fair, after two or three rounds of flustered scribbling on the helpfully provided draft grid, things began to settle down into an understandable rhythm, with interviews and analysis – rather than hypothetical musing – interspersing the “action” in the main studio. Though how many of the casual audience, who could also follow online via the BBC, the competition’s other broadcast partner, will have stuck with it for the long haul remains unknown.

By the end of the process, when Luke Wright became the 96th player to be given a Hundred handshake, you could argue that things had gone pretty well. There were no technical glitches or hold-ups, the teams professed to being happy with their selections (and it was hard to argue with the concentration of talent in each list), and all of the players present were on message – albeit Sky had only invited in those certain of deals. Beyond a certain amount of carping at the number of Kolpaks winning “domestic” spots or the lack of any Leicestershire player being picked, the most difficult moments came for the camera operators trying to avoid catching Sam Billings or Jofra Archer eating their dinner while filming segments in the canteen.

There was even room for an announcement of marquee players for the women’s competition – though given the ECB has made a big thing of the Hundred putting male and female players on the same pedestal, this was an occasion heavily orientated towards the men’s game (and that is without touching on the issue of pay).

Perhaps most importantly, this felt like a recognisably “cricket” happening – bubbling along with enthusiastic discussion about squad balance and tactical options. And who would begrudge the likes of Max Waller or Benny Howell the opportunity to become household names? For a few brief hours it was easy to forget about the whole 100-balls lark, as if this, finally, were the star-studded launch of England’s first T20 franchise league. Now there’s an idea.

After the World Cup and Ashes summer just gone – reminders of which were regularly on show – it remains a nagging doubt that a fourth format will merely serve to complicate matters further. And on a day that began with emotional sporting scenes in Japan, as rugby union made great global strides with its own expansionist tournament, while in the UAE the T20 World Cup Qualifier continued to offer cricket a path for growth, it seems instructive that the ECB is spending millions of pounds simply to drum up interest in its own territory.

But here we are, on the road to the promised land – or, at least, the highly leveraged land. In these divided times, whether the Hundred turns out to be a field of dreams or a waking nightmare may simply depend on your point of view.



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England Lions tour game peters out into high-scoring draw | Cricket

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Sam Northeast bats for Hampshire © Getty Images


England Lions 613 for 8 declared (Sibley 103, Jennings 141, Lawrence 190, Bracey 58, Doggett 4-60) and 116 for 3 (Northeast 46*) drew with Cricket Australia XI 546 all out (Sangha 72, Lehmann 150, Edwards 192, Overton 3-100, Lawrence 3-94)

Sam Northeast made an unbeaten 46 as England Lions’ tour game against a Cricket Australia XI petered out into a high-scoring draw in Hobart.

With Jack Edwards resuming on 142, the hosts added 77 runs in 23.2 overs on the final morning, with part-time spinners Dom Sibley and Dan Lawrence wrapping things up by dismissing Mitchell Perry for 28 and, eventually, Edwards for 190.

The Lions then made 116 for 3 in a low-key third innings, with Zak Crawley, Dom Sibley and Keaton Jennings the men dismissed. Northeast scored quickly, stroking seven boundaries in his 57-ball innings, before the captains shook hands mid-afternoon.

Lewis Gregory and Richard Gleeson, who were absent through injury yesterday, remained unavailable on the final day. The Lions’ next game is a four-day, first-class game against a strong Australia A side under the MCG floodlights.

“There were a lot of positives to come out of the match in all phases of the game. It was tough for the bowlers on the pitch, but our bowlers stuck to their task during the last couple of days, especially with a couple of injuries,” said Richard Dawson, the Lions coach.

“The batting was an obvious highlight and it was pleasing to see three centurions in the first innings, with Dan Lawrence’s ability to push on on day two really putting us in a good position.

“We’ll face another tough match at the MCG against Australia A later this week, but it’s a great opportunity for the lads to experience a different challenge playing under lights. Our preparation over the past two weeks has been very good and we will be continuing this leading into the game.”

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Moeen Ali named Birmingham Phoenix captain for the Hundred | Cricket

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Moeen Ali is a local icon player for Birmingham Phoenix © Christopher Lee/Getty Images for ECB


Moeen Ali will captain Birmingham Phoenix in the inaugural season of the Hundred.

Moeen, a £125,000 ‘local icon’ player for the Phoenix, has been handed the role ahead of a strong set of candidates including Kane Williamson and Liam Livingstone.

He grew up in Sparkhill, just a short distance from Edgbaston, which will host the men’s home matches, and his team will include fellow World Cup-winning Birmingham local, Chris Woakes, as well as Pat Brown, the young England seamer who made his T20I debut this winter.

ALSO READ: The Hundred – full squad lists

Moeen joins Eoin Morgan (London Spirit) and Aaron Finch (Northern Superchargers) as a confirmed captain in the competition, while Dane Vilas (Manchester Originals) and Sam Billings (Oval Invincibles) are likely to follow. Other teams’ decisions over their choice of captain might be affected by availability, with the possibility that Australian leadership candidates miss the latter stages of the tournament to play an ODI series against Zimbabwe.

“Every time that I come to Edgbaston it takes me back to some great first memories of coming here at a very young age,” Moeen said. “I grew up in this area and to be the first-ever men’s captain of Birmingham Phoenix in a new and inclusive competition that will reach out to communities and welcome them in is very special for me.

“We’re a tight-knit city in Birmingham. We have so much around us that brings the people together, no matter who you are or your background. I know how much of a uniting game cricket is and as a leader of the Birmingham Phoenix that is something I definitely want to promote.

“We are lucky to have some of the best players in the country in our squad but also some amazing overseas players, so we know that the cricket is going to be really exciting.”

Moeen’s record as captain has been honed by his stint in charge of Worcestershire Rapids, whom he led to consecutive Vitality Blast finals at Edgbaston, winning in 2018 and finishing as runners-up to Essex in 2019.

“Worcestershire is where I have developed as a player and as a leader and captaining them in high-profile games like at Finals Day will shape the way I will lead the Birmingham Phoenix,” he said.

“It will also help that I’ve got my Rapids team-mate Pat Brown too because he is one of the best young white-ball bowlers in the country and when you add players like Chris Woakes, we have a strong local flavour that I’m sure can bring home the title.”

Andrew McDonald, the men’s head coach, said: “Moeen is a fantastic allrounder and has the experience and temperament to lead the team. He started his cricket journey here at Edgbaston from a young age so it feels fitting that he will captain the men’s Birmingham Phoenix team.

“He’s involved in the local community in Birmingham and I know how much of a popular figure he is at Worcestershire too so I’m sure his efforts on and off the field will help inspire the next generation from our region and beyond to get involved in cricket.”

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T20 ‘Champions Cup’ part of ICC events for 2023-2031

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A T20 Champions Cup that would have the world’s top 10 nations ploughing through no fewer than 48 matches – the same number as last year’s 50-over World Cup – is the most contentious event in the ICC’s proposed suite of tournaments for the 2023 to 2031 broadcast rights cycle.

The full suite of proposed events for the next broadcast rights cycle, as revealed to ESPNcricinfo, is at the heart of the current struggle between the ICC and its richest member nations over space in the calendar over the period up for debate.

Under the proposal, which was first tabled to the ICC Board in October last year and has been the subject of vigorous discussions between boards and the ICC since, there would be a T20 Champions Cup in 2024 and 2028 and an ODI Champions Cup in 2025 and 2029, alongside the T20 World Cups in 2026 and 2030, and the ODI World Cups in 2027 and 2031.

While the 50-over Champions Cup has been outlined as a brief event similar to the Champions Trophy and occupying just six teams and 16 games, the T20 Champions Cup is effectively another World Cup in size, with its 48 matches just seven fewer than the T20 World Cup proper and the same number of games as the ODI World Cup itself.

Member countries have been given until March 15 to submit expressions of interest to bid for global events in the 2023-2031 cycle, which as proposed by the governing body will feature both a T20 and a 50-over Champions Cup in addition to the World Cups in each format. That deadline looms ahead of the next quarterly round of ICC meetings in late March, despite there being little indication of formal agreement over the proposal itself, which was only provisionally approved, subject to plenty of adjustments, by the ICC board late last year.

The ICC and its chief executive Manu Sawhney have argued that there needs to be at least one ICC event in each year of the cycle to provide consistent cashflow from events revenue to the game’s smaller countries. However, the BCCI, Cricket Australia and the ECB have pushed back out of a desire to maintain their own broad windows for the bilateral cricket that remains a significant money raiser for them.

Member boards have argued that the number of days required for these events will eat significantly into available time for bilateral cricket, and also for the World Test Championship, with its finals during the cycle set down for 2025, 2027, 2029 and 2031. At the same time, the BCCI is looking at expanding the size of the IPL, further crushing a calendar that now also features a preponderance of domestic T20 events, and from this year will also include the Hundred tournament in England.

Another element that the proposed schedule of events seems to push further to the margins is the concept of cricket in the Olympics. In August last year, the MCC’s World Cricket Committee chairman Mike Gatting stated that Sawhney had indicated that moves were afoot to include cricket in the Olympics as early as the 2028 games in Los Angeles, the same year as one of the T20 Champions Cups is meant to be played.

“We’ve got a responsibility as one of the leading countries to make the ICC strong and the countries who are part of the ICC. But we’ve also got to balance that with our own requirements around bilateral cricket,” the Cricket Australia chairman Earl Eddings said last year. “One of the challenges we have is Australia relies more on bilateral cricket than the ICC, where for a lot of countries it is the other way round. So just trying to find the balance.

“You’ve got more T20 competitions spreading around the world, you’ve got the burgeoning IPL and you’ve got our bilateral cricket. More importantly, what does that mean to the players and from a player welfare perspective. So you’ve got all these challenges to try to work through. I think there’s a solution there, I don’t know what it is yet, but we’ll keep talking to the ICC and other countries to find a way to one, maximise the opportunities for the ICC and its members but also look after the needs of bilateral cricket and most importantly protect the sanctity of Test cricket.”

A Champions Cup for both T20 and 50-over matches also features in the proposed women’s program, albeit on a reduced scale, with both events being played by six teams over 16 matches. Under the terms set out by the ICC for bidding, the host nation for each event would retain ticketing, hospitality and catering revenues, while the ICC would retain all other commercial and broadcast rights to each event.



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