LONDON (Reuters) - The launch of The Hundred was postponed until 2021 on Thursday as the coronavirus pandemic forced the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) to put its new limited overs experiment on hold.
The franchise-based league, including an American sports-style draft and featuring eight teams with names such as London Spirit, Manchester Originals and Trent Rockets, was scheduled to run from mid-July to September.
Last week the ECB extended the suspension of all professional cricket in England until July 1.
“The situation we find ourselves in as a country means that delivery of The Hundred will not be possible this summer,” ECB Chief Executive Officer Tom Harrison said in a statement.
“Whilst we are naturally disappointed that we won’t get to realise our ambitions this year, The Hundred will go ahead in 2021 when we are safely able to deliver everything we intended to help grow the game.
Matches would have comprised 100 balls per innings with a change of ends after 10 deliveries.
Bowlers would deliver either five or 10 consecutive balls and no more than 20 balls per game.
The ECB has invested heavily in The Hundred, a competition it believes will attract a younger audience to the sport.
It has not been without its critics though.
Running costs for the inaugural season have risen to a reported 35 million pounds ($43.69 million) before factoring in lucrative player payments.
A home broadcasting deal with Sky Sports is worth 36.5 million pounds but it was likely the competition would initially run at a loss, prompting criticism and even an inquiry by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).
Other critics suggested The Hundred would detract from the already-popular T20 Blast featuring all 18 counties.
The domestic cricket calendar in England has been severely impacted by the coronavirus crisis.
England’s three-match home test series against West Indies scheduled for June and the women’s T20I and ODI matches against India in June and July will also be moved.
Nine rounds of the English County Championship will be lost while the T20 Blast, which was due to start on May 28, will be pushed as late in the season as possible.
Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Ken Ferris and Toby Davis