By Michael Stafford-Jones

  • ECB announces surprise plans for 100-ball city-based competition in 2020 instead of T20
  • Format likely to consist of 15 six-ball overs and one 10-ball over
  • The idea is widely condemned by many journalists, players and fans
LONDON, ENGLAND – After the ECB reveals plans for new 100-ball format for its city-based tournament starting in 2020, we assess the pros and cons of the idea.

 

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Twenty20 works well so why change it?

Every cricket fan in England expected the ECB to officially announce a new city-based Twenty20 competition. Instead, they revealed plans for brand-new 100-ball format.

It is a very strange idea because T20 is extremely popular in the cricketing world. Since its introduction in 2003, we have seen the emergence of the T20 Blast (originally known as the Twenty20 Cup) in England, The Big Bash in Australia, the Caribbean Premier League, the Ram Slam in South Africa, the Bangladesh Premier League, the Pakistan Super League and the all-conquering Indian Premier League (IPL).

Most of these tournaments are successful to varying degrees, while two – The Big Bash and the IPL – have grown to phenomenal proportions. They attract most of the world’s best T20 players (some of whom receive large fees for their participation) and are televised around the world.

So it would have made perfect sense for the ECB to introduce a similar tournament to these two franchise-based behemoths. Instead, they have taken a huge gamble by trying a different format entirely.

 

New format may be unpopular with players

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One of the most important functions of the ECB’s new city-based tournament is to attract the world’s best T20 players. However, there is a chance their choice of format will put some stars off.

“I don’t think T20 has reached anywhere near its ceiling,” former Australia fast bowler Shaun Tait told ESPN Cricinfo. “And you throw this in and it complicates things a bit.”

“I reckon it’s getting too funky,” added Australian all-rounder James Faulkner, who has played 159 T20s for various teams around the world. “Why have 10 balls in the last over? What is wrong with the format at the moment?”

Several English county cricketers are equally unimpressed such as Middlesex spinner Ollie Rayner:

 

Northants player Ben Sanderson opted for a simpler approach.

 

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The news has made prominent pundits worry about the state of cricket

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After Vic Marks heard that the ECB is keen to ensure matches in its new competition last no more than three hours and finish by 9pm, he wrote a scathing response in his Guardian column:

“It seems the ECB will do anything to satisfy the whims of the broadcasters and this includes introducing yet another format of the game, which is already overloaded with matches of so many different durations. And it has the gall to call this a simplification.”

“The ECB now prostrates itself at the knees of the broadcasters even if it means prostituting the game.”

While Michael Vaughan stressed that he thinks the 100-ball format will be successful, he did express some concerns.

Vaughan also believes more should be done to improve Test cricket. “We tinker with one-day cricket all the time and still we do not touch the one form of the game that has been declining for the last 15 years and that is Test cricket,” he wrote in his Telegraph column.

“It is a shame we do not see the same kind of energy put in to market Test cricket. I am sure we will see huge digital campaigns around the new competition which will mean Test cricket is further ignored. Do we now just have to accept Test cricket stays the same and dies very slowly?”

 

It might attract a new audience

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The widespread negative reaction to the ECB’s radical idea prompted a reaction from England director of cricket Andrew Strauss.

“What we’re trying to do is appeal to a new audience, people that aren’t traditional cricket fans,” the former England captain told BBC Sport. “We want to make the game as simple as possible for them to understand.”

If the competition does feature a 10-ball over alongside 15 six-ball overs, that is hardly simple. Perhaps they should consider making it 10 overs each consisting of 10 balls instead.

Strauss also explained that the format was aimed at “mums and kids during the summer holidays” as well as the traditional T20 audience.

He said, “We want kids to be able to go to bed earlier and it is worth saying it is going to be on terrestrial TV. We want the more casual audience.”

 

It’s not as radical as it seems

Maybe those who have reacted with astonishment or anger at the ECB’s proposal fail to realise something. Vaughan certainly seems to think so. He wrote in the Telegraph:

“All the headlines and focus will be on 100-ball innings and wildcard (10-ball) overs but actually the new tournament will stand or fall by whether or not it attracts the best players and coaches.”

“The format is not very different to existing Twenty20. Just 20 balls fewer. That is it really. It will still be a highly skilled, intense, pressurised game of cricket. We will see great performances, stars born and drama unfold.”

 

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