As for the opening nights, The Hundred’s was certainly as good as the organizers could have hoped.
A record modern audience and a thrilling Oval Invincibles win over Manchester Originals only told half the story.
As the game reached its exhilarating climax, a noise strange to English cricket stadiums went over the floor.
No 80s classics sung by well-oiled fans or roaring chants to support the home team.
Instead, an excitable, rhythmic clap.
A young audience was not fixated on the halftime music acts or the fireworks, but on the sport that was playing out before their eyes.
That was cricket, just not as we know it.
A crowd of around 7,400 people were at The Oval to watch The Hundred’s first game. to see
The debate since The Hundred – the newest format of 100 balls per innings cricket – was announced three years ago has been one of the most intense cricket has ever seen.
The neon green and pink fireworks that blew up from the roof of the oval’s historic pavilion when the players first stepped onto the field was almost a metaphor for the disharmony that divides a sport.
Problems raised by critics of the tournament don’t go away after a game.
But for a format thought of as an opportunity to attract new audiences, this was an encouraging start.
The audience was undoubtedly younger and more diverse than at the men’s internationals or the current Twenty20 Blast.
Groups of young girls wandered into the famous old floor. Families took their places with some children too young to hold a cricket ball, let alone swing a bat.
The Hundred started with an impressive fireworks display
Instead of the bars, it was the caterers selling pizza and ice cream that had the longest lines.
Spectators ‘oooh-ed’ and ‘ahhh-ed’ on a six or foursome and cheered Manchester Originals bowler Kate Cross for a hat trick ball, but there was a different feeling.
In cricket there is room for both – nobody at Trent Bridge for Pakistan’s stormy win against England last Friday it would have been different – but this atmosphere was more like a chilled rooftop bar than a boozy bachelorette party.
The screams of Sweet Caroline, which have been a staple of the cricket pitch for the past few years, have been replaced by the relaxed mixes of the resident DJ in the stands.
The same stage hosted both the pre-match throw and an appearance by singer Becky Hill, a recent chart-topper, during the break between innings.
Other new inclusions included white cards held up by umpires to signal the end of a bowler’s set of five balls, an LED tunnel through which players entered the field, and the flames that followed a four, six – or wicket broke out of the boundary edge.
The Hundred was created by the England and Wales Cricket Board to bring the game to a younger, more diverse audience
In total, around 7,400 people attended the game, a number that is considered the record for a professional women’s cricket game around the world.
Many of these were given away for free – but if the object expands in the game, does that really matter?
Some purists may have been put off – others may not have looked at all – but there were moments for them too.
A graceful four-over extra cover by Harmanpreet Kaur from Manchester would have impressed anyone. She showed the touch and skill of Wimbledon’s newest champion Ashleigh Barty, another who know a thing or two about cricket.
Originals wicketkeeper Ellie Threlkeld’s quick hands to sack Marizanne Kapp was reminiscent of former England goalkeeper Sarah Taylor.
But the best was yet to come.
As the Oval Invincibles fought their way back into a competition the Originals wanted to win, the tension grew.
Cricket became the main event.
When Mady Villiers met her English teammate Sophie Ecclestone, the number one T20 bowler in the world, for six with 10 balls to go, the crowd jumped up.
Moments later, Invincibles captain Dane van Niekerk hit the winning streak with only two balls left. The greatest skeptics of the hundred would have moved big and small in the stands at the sight of dancing spectators.
“We couldn’t have asked for anything better to cause a stir at the tournament,” said England captain Heather Knight, part of the BBC commentary team.
“It was electric,” added a worn Van Niekerk.
“The crowd was incredible. I don’t think I’ve ever played a home game – except in the half-game and the final.” [Australian T20 competition] the Big Bash – in such an atmosphere. “
Originals Skipper Cross may have been beaten, but she smiled as she spoke after the game.
“It’s the loudest crowd I’ve ever played in front of, including international cricket,” she said.
The oval is expected to be almost fully booked on Thursday when the same two teams open the men’s competition.
The next question – can the men ride the wave that the women provided?
Singer Becky Hill performed for fans during the break