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Lord’s and the Kia Oval lined up for Hundred finale

The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) has confirmed that Lord’s and the Kia Oval will host the finale of the inaugural edition of The Hundred, with women’s teams to open the competition as it falls in line with its male counterpart.

The innovative new 100-ball competition, designed to open cricket up to more families and young people, will start with the Oval Invincibles women’s team hosting Manchester Originals at the Kia Oval, home of Surrey County Cricket Club, on July 21 before the same two men’s sides follow suit the following day.

It will be the first time a major UK team sporting event has launched men’s and women’s competitions alongside each other, headlined with a women’s match. Although it has proven controversial amongst traditionalists, The Hundred aims to make cricket more accessible to families and young people by fusing world-class, fast-paced cricket with family-friendly entertainment off the pitch.

It features eight brand new teams based in Birmingham, Cardiff, Leeds, Manchester, Nottingham, Southampton and two in London. The ECB in April confirmed that The Hundred would debut in the summer of 2021 and not last year as originally planned. The ECB board decided that it was not possible for the competition to be staged in 2020 due to the ongoing uncertainty caused by COVID-19.

After the opening two matches, the rest of the schedule will see the men’s and women’s teams both playing on the same day, at the same venue, with the ambition to elevate women’s cricket through The Hundred. Organisers of The Hundred Women’s competition in November announced that the venue scheme for the debut tournament would be brought in-line with the men’s edition after a plan to utilise 20 grounds across England and Wales was deemed too ambitious during COVID-19.

The announcement means the women’s edition of the ECB’s flagship new tournament will now take place at eight of the leading stadia in the two countries. The venues for the tournaments will be: Lord’s, the Kia Oval, Emirates Old Trafford, Emerald Headingley, Sophia Gardens, the Ageas Bowl, Edgbaston and Trent Bridge.

“All of the women’s matches will be first,” Beth Barrett-Wild, head of the Women’s Hundred, told ESPNcricinfo. “We did have some discussions as to whether we’d look to flip that (but) we’ve had a few trial runs of the women playing after the men and sometimes you get a different vibe and crowd to the one you’d want. I went to a Surrey Stars match in the KSL (Kia Super League) a few years ago after a men’s match and you got the horrible scenario of people leaving, which looks dreadful.”

The teams finishing second and third in the league stage will meet each other at the Kia Oval in The Hundred Eliminator on August 20 to compete for a place in the Final against the league winners. Both the men’s and women’s finals will take place the following day on August 21 at Lord’s.

“Having the women’s and men’s final at Lord’s on the same day on that Saturday is massive,” Barrett-Wild added. “They’re both going to be on the BBC – that’s enormous. When we talk about playing in front of 4,000 people in Hove, that’s great and we’ve seen that working brilliantly. But in terms of the scale and the uplift for the women’s match being played at Lord’s, hopefully in front of a full crowd, on that Saturday – it’s huge. That’s something the players will be really excited about.”

Tickets for The Hundred will go on sale to those signed up at thehundred.com through a priority window on April 7, with general sale beginning on April 21. Affordability for families has been prioritised with tickets for U16s at £5 (€6/$7) and adult tickets starting at £10 for a women’s and men’s match, while children U5 go free.