The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) has hailed the opening of The Hundred, stating the first two games of the new domestic competition have surpassed expectations.

The Kia Oval, home of Surrey County Cricket Club, was the venue for the opening action, hosting women’s and men’s games between the Oval Invincibles and Manchester Originals. The home team came out on top in both games, with Wednesday’s match watched by 7,395 fans, the largest modern-day crowd for a women’s professional domestic cricket match in England.

Yesterday’s (Thursday’s) men’s encounter drew a crowd of 18,196 to the London venue. The ECB today said well over 400,000 tickets have already been sold for the four-week competition, with 30,000 sold since the launch on Wednesday.

The success of The Hundred has been seen as crucial for the ECB, and the innovative nature of the new competition has had a broadly positive reception to date. The ECB in February confirmed that Lord’s and the Kia Oval would host the finale of the inaugural edition of The Hundred, with women’s teams to open the competition as it fell in line with its male counterpart.

The new 100-ball competition has proven controversial amongst traditionalists, but 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 2020 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 takes place at eight of the leading stadia in the two countries. The venues for the tournaments are: Lord’s, the Kia Oval, Emirates Old Trafford, Emerald Headingley, Sophia Gardens, the Ageas Bowl, Edgbaston and Trent Bridge.

Music is at the heart of the fan experience of The Hundred with live acts and DJs at games. Jake Bugg will be performing at his local ground in Nottingham for the Trent Rockets game tomorrow, Lady Leshurr will be taking to the stage in her hometown for Birmingham Phoenix’s game on August 1, Everything Everything will perform for their local team at Manchester Originals on August 10 and Jax Jones will be closing the competition at The Hundred Final at Lord’s on August 21.

The ECB said ticket sales have already exceeded expectations for the first year of the competition, with 62% of general sales for under 45s, 42% under 35s, 19% kids’ tickets and 22% female buyers.

Sanjay Patel, managing director of The Hundred, said: “To have two thrilling, edge-of-your-seat matches with an incredible atmosphere across both games – we really couldn’t have asked for a better start to The Hundred. It’s clear we’re in for a thrilling few weeks.

“The Hundred is all about throwing cricket’s doors open for everyone, and the excitement and interest we’ve seen since our two opening games has been astonishing. We’re only at the beginning with a lot of cricket and music to be played, so the hard work has just begun.”

Images: ECB