The Hundred is here! And with it’s arrival, Duncan Hamilton foretell’s the demise of red ball cricket in his book, One Long and Beautiful Summer: A Short Elegy For Red-Ball Cricket. The book, beautifully covered by former cricketer turned painter Jack Russell’s Scarborough, follows Hamilton’s romantic 2019 trip across England in his ode to the long form of the game.
In 2017 the ECB announced The Hundred, a new format launched in July 2021 (postponed from 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic) in which each franchise team has 100 balls to score as many as runs as possible. Appealing to a younger audience or those not normally interested in the game, it comes in direct contrast to the long form which can last up to 4 or 5 days and still end in a draw.
Hamilton’s work is beautifully written, almost poetic as he travels from village cricket, to smaller grounds such as Welbeck Colliery Cricket Club and Clifton Park in York, to traditional county grounds like the County Ground in Hove and Grace Road in Leicester, to larger Test grounds including The Oval in London and Headingley Cricket Ground in Leeds as he wonderfully describes Ben Stoke’s (and Jack Leach’s) heroics in the 2019 Ashes.
I have to say however I am a little sceptical of his theory that The Hundred will see off county cricket. Slap bang in the middle of the inaugural tournament, England have been facing India in a test series – a series which drew away many of the competition’s biggest stars after just a few matches. If there was any doubt red ball cricket is losing its appeal, the second test and its subsequent reaction was a big reminder of how dramatic it can be – England being bowled out in the last two sessions of the fifth’s day play in what was surely one of the most intense finishes at historic Lord’s.
The County Championship on the other hand, has been in decline for a number of years but is yet the foundation of test cricket in England. I personally have never been to a First-class county match – each time I have considered attending the ticket prices have put me off (£15 or £20 for a day’s play in which just a few hundred attend). Red ball cricket however very much has its place in the game, with test cricket still incredibly popular and the introduction of 50 over and Twenty20 across the years doing little to diminish it. As a Sports Tourist, The Hundred as a spectacle does appeal to me much more; it is perhaps the format and price of the County Championship that needs a rework and if anything, perhaps it is the future of T20 cricket that will be at stake?
One Long and Beautiful Summer: A Short Elegy For Red-Ball Cricket is available in Hardback, Paperback and Kindle on Amazon.
Feeling inspired by this book? Check out guides to The Hundred and the County Championship, as well as classic county grounds featured in the book including Headingley in Leeds, The Oval in London, Grace Road in Leicester and the County Ground in Hove.