The Hundred set for 12-month delay if no English cricket until high summer
The Hundred, English cricket's flagship short-form domestic competition, due to launch in July this year, is now in danger of being pushed back to 2021 if the coronavirus outbreak significantly reduces the length of the season.
Following talks last week between the England and Wales Cricket Board and the 18 first-class county clubs, domestic matches have been suspended until 28 May, at the earliest.
This means that four competitions will have to be squeezed into a window of four months as the season usually ends in late-September.
The County Championship, the first-class competition, was due to begin on 12 April, while The Hundred was set to launch on 17 July.
With uncertainty over when play will get under way, it has been reported that the ECB has given the counties a cut-off point for the season beyond which The Hundred would not take place.
If the men's and women's competitions, which are set to feature eight city-based sides playing matches of 100 balls per innings, cannot be started by mid-summer, it is envisaged that the inaugural editions will instead take place in 2021.
Tim Bostock, Durham’s chief executive, said in a radio interview: “If we end up getting squeezed into a two-month season… a view will be taken about whether this is really the right time to launch The Hundred.”
Bostock claimed that this had emerged from talks with Tom Harrison, the ECB's chief executive.
He added: “I certainly get the impression that if we get a two-month season, the pragmatic view would be to ask what’s the point of launching this competition now? Let’s launch it properly next year.”
However, Bostock also said that “if it’s a four-month season, there’s a lot of county cricket in the schedule I’ve seen… three months as well.”
As soon as the definitive start date for the domestic season is confirmed, the decision on which formats go ahead and take priority will involve consultation with the ECB’s broadcast partners, pay-TV’s Sky Sports and public-service network the BBC.
This summer is due to be the first season of a new five-year, £1.1-billion ($1.3-billion) rights deal between the two broadcasters and the ECB.
The BBC is set to show 10 live games per season from The Hundred, while the large majority will remain exclusively on Sky, which also shows England's home matches and other tournaments such as the T20 Blast, the established county Twenty20 competition.