By James Skeldon
As the domestic cricket season draws to a close, ECB chief executive Tom Harrison believes The Hundred has opened up a whole new audience to the sport.
Welsh Fire were one of eight teams to compete in the brand new competition, aimed at bringing in higher revenues to the sport and attracting a wider fan base.
Although the team’s performance throughout the tournament was slightly disappointing, the fast-paced action of The Hundred captivated the nation in a way that has not been seen before.
Tom Harrison, the ECB Chief Executive officer was delighted with the first instalment of the tournament.
“The Hundred is all about throwing cricket’s doors open, we’ve seen in year one how it’s already delivering,” he said.
“It’s provided outstanding entertainment for new and existing fans alike, unearthed new cricketing heroes, and it’s been fantastic to see so many children and families enjoying the action.”
Harrison also noted how pivotal the tournament has been for women’s cricket. He believes the tournament has created “role models for girls and boys to be inspired by.
“We need to grow cricket, reach more people and inspire more children to pick up the bat and ball and that’s exactly what The Hundred does.
“If we’ve got more people playing the game, we have more county and Test stars of the future.”
This is particularly important for Wales and demonstrates the importance of Welsh Fire being a prominent source of sporting inspiration. Despite some reservations among the traditionalists, The Hundred can be viewed as an overwhelming positive for the advancement of cricket in the UK.
The tournament has shown near unprecedented levels of attention from the public with 16 million people tuning in over the course of the campaign.
However, what stood out about this tournament was the number of new fans The Hundred has brought into the game, the majority of viewers of this tournament had not tuned in to watch any other form of live ECB cricket in 2021.
The viewing figures showed that 57% of viewers had not watched any other cricket this year. Increased engagement with cricket was reflected in the attendance of live matches, as well as matches on TV. 55% of the people who purchased a ticket and attended a match had not been to a cricket match in the UK before.
Athletic. Acrobatic. Awe-inspiring. 🙌@KaTie_George46 is named the best fielder in the women’s competition! 🤲#TheHundred pic.twitter.com/2vLoyw1s7O
— The Hundred (@thehundred) September 22, 2021
The statistics also show that The Hundred has attracted a wider audience to the women’s game, whilst also involving more women in cricket.
As well as the sky-high viewing figures for the women’s matches, a huge number of women were engaged with the tournament, with 21% of tickets being purchased by women.
From a performance point of view, Welsh Fire will be disappointed with their campaigns as both teams finished 7th and 8th respectively.
That said, there is plenty to be optimistic about the 2022 edition of The Hundred.
Welsh Fire women secured a convincing win over the eventual champions of the tournament, the Oval Invincibles.
This shows they are more than capable of beating the top teams and challenging for the title.
The men’s team also showed promise as they got out of the blocks quickly with a brace of early wins but could not capitalise on their early successes. Their stunning run chase in their final match against London Spirit underlined their high-class credentials.
Welsh Fire Men will see this campaign as a missed opportunity after a positive start as well as their impressive individual performances.
Batting was a major plus for them as two of their batters featured in the top five run-scorers for the tournament.
Anything @liaml4893 can do…
😳 @glenndominic159 😳#TheHundred pic.twitter.com/u4kTkXMNDd
— The Hundred (@thehundred) August 18, 2021
Captain, Ben Duckett was consistently excellent throughout as he amassed 232 runs from his eight innings. He ended the tournament as the second-highest run-scorer second only to Liam Livingstone, a batter who has seemed to have the Midas touch this summer.
Glenn Phillips was another batter who impressed. After a slow start, his rapid 35-ball 80 in the team’s concluding match of the tournament underlined his high-class credentials. He is a gun batter that the Fire will be keen to retain ahead of next years’ competition and he has also expressed his desire to feature for the tournament’s Welsh franchise.
He said: “To be a part of something that’s new like this and something that’s going to go a long way into the future is incredible.
“Cardiff has been absolutely lovely, the boys have been lovely and we’ve had a great team environment.
“Whether we’ve won or lost the boys have really got around each other.”
The Hundred was a resounding success and is set to be even bigger and better in 2022. Welsh Fire will be hungry for better results next year.