Cricket games could be getting even shorter after ECB propose new 100-ball domestic competition

Cricket games could be getting even shorter after the ECB presented a proposal to kick off a new 100-ball competition. The proposal was presented to the head honchos of the MCC and first-class counties by English cricket's governing body on Thursday.

What does the proposal entail?

Essentially, the ECB wish to create two domestic leagues which shorten the length of the game even further from T20’s. 100-ball innings' are a 20 ball reduction on T20’s, and if you’re a mathematician you might’ve noticed that 6-ball overs don’t fit perfectly into the innings length.

The idea is to bowl 15 regular 6-ball overs, totalling in 90 balls, before a final 10-ball over is bowled to complete the innings. The introduction of a longer final over will add ‘a fresh tactical dimension’, according to the ECB, and will help to differentiate the competition from the plethora of domestic T20 competitions which have popped up around the world in recent years.

In terms of league structure, the ECB wishes to create separate men’s and women’s 100-ball innings leagues. Each would contain eight teams, which have already been chosen, and include two London-based teams, Birmingham, Leeds, and Manchester.

According to the ECB, the new format is a ‘fresh and exciting idea’, and one which would ‘appeal to a younger audience and attract new fans to the game’. Incidentally, this is almost identical to the reasons for the development of the T20 game a little over a decade ago.

Will it work?

Of course, with any change comes resistance, and T20 is a perfect example of this. When the shortest format of the game was initially introduced, it was met with plenty of disdain. Today, however, it has become a staple of the cricket calendar. 

Unsurprisingly, this proposed new format is no different. A Cricinfo quiz asking about the new format, on which nearly 7,000 people have voted, has so far seen 69% of people agree that it is either ‘unnecessary’ or ‘completely bonkers’. Comments on a BBC article about the proposal are equally negative, with nearly every contributor vocally voicing their opposition to it. 

Why have the ECB made this proposal?

With the IPL acting as a pioneer, cricketing nations across the globe have progressively developed their own domestic T20 competitions, aiming to draw the best players in the world to their country. This has reached varying levels of success. 

England, for their part, have created what is widely known as the T20 Blast, or for sponsorship purposes, the Vitality Blast. Despite being created by one of the oldest and proudest cricketing nations on the globe, this league has fallen significantly behind many of its competitors. The IPL continues to grow, while Australia’s Big Bash League has come on in leaps and bounds in recent years. In contrast, England, a country equally as renowned for its cricket as the aforementioned, have fallen behind. While the best players flock to Australia and particularly India for the respective T20 leagues, the Vitality Blast has been competed in by predominantly English players, and while there has been some overseas talent involved, it is nowhere near the levels of the IPL and the Big Bash.

Clearly, the ECB are looking for a way to separate themselves from the plethora of T20 domestic leagues, many of which they have failed to compete against. The 100-ball format will no doubt continue to be criticised, but given it’s novelty it will also generate a whole lot of interest. At this stage it is still a proposal, but with unanimous backing from the English Cricket Board, it clearly has some legs. If it does develop past the proposal stage, it’s hard to imagine fans not showing some initial interest, and probably more than has been generated around the world by the Vitality Blast. 

In this case, the wave of criticism the ECB are facing and will likely continue to face isn’t necessarily a bad thing for them. The critics will continue to follow this storyline keenly, and if and when the leagues do kick off, these same critics will be watching, even if it’s only to ensure that their criticisms were justified. It may not be the kind of interest the ECB would ideally generate, but if the product is a good one, then this attention will inevitably turn positive. The idea is an out-of-the-box one, but with the Vitality Blast not even close to competing against the bigger T20 leagues across the globe, it is certainly worth a try.