The Hundred, the ECB’s 100-ball-a-side competition, aims to carry over momentum from The Ashes as it commences this week. Adrian Pennington takes to the crease to uncover the inside story.
All 68 matches of The Hundred (34 men and 34 women’s) in the month-long tournament are being screened on Sky Sports, with 16 of them also broadcast live on the BBC iPlayer and BBC TV (which also has radio ball-by-ball commentary on every game).
The Hundred features eight teams across seven cities competing in men’s and women’s cricket. Every day will be a double-header with a women’s match in the afternoon and a men’s game following in the evening, each innings lasting approx. 65 mins.
Sky Sports produces the host feed from which the BBC produces its own version on-site at each of the venues.
Behind the Scenes: The Hundred - UHD HDR
IBC365 spoke with BBC Operations Executive Andy Underhill about the production of this year’s event.
“It’s a complex process,” he explained. “BBC Sport take the baked cake that Sky has produced and strips it back to its raw ingredients before putting it back together to create a BBC branded version.”
Sky’s feed is produced in UHD HDR remotely with all cameras switched back in Osterley. The BBC takes a signal from Sky down-converted to 1080i and produces its presentation as an OB.
This introduces a delay of up to 15 frames or 600 milliseconds which need to be matched with the BBC’s own cameras feeds which are ingest directly into the OB van.
Underhill explained: “Everything we get from Osterley we have to put through vision delay so when we cut them with our cameras we don’t, for instance, see a bowler perform the same action twice. The first thing we have to do each day is to make sure our replay wipe is in sync with the picture timing. This is done by matching the GPI trigger in the vision mixer at Sky with the trigger in the vision mixer in our truck.”
BBC Sport augments the host broadcast with ten cameras at each ground including two box lens cameras for ISO coverage such as close-ups on players, an RF for a reporter roving among fans and PTZs in the comms boxes.
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“We tend to try find the highest building on site or adjacent to each ground to allow us to see the whole field at any time to explain fielding positions, for instance,” he said.
“The nature of this format of the game is very fast paced. In conventional cricket you get a pause to analyse every six balls whereas here it is every 10 balls. There is less time to fill so you’ve got to be quick to keep up with on field action.”
Behind the Scenes: The Hundred – Live chat
A feature of The Hundred coverage is the ability for commentators to talk live to players while they are on the pitch. This hasn’t yet been tried with the batting team where concentration is perhaps of a higher requirement than for a fielder.
“Also, we know that a fielder is probably going to be on the field for much more time than a batter,” said Underhill.
Sky and the BBC can each select one member of the fielding team each to mic up. The commentary team, which includes former and current players (Isa Guha, James Anderson, Heather Knight, Moeen Ali and Alex Hartley among them), can converse with the fielder between overs about tactics, weather the pitch or just general banter.
While the lavalier RF packs stay the same from last year, what has changed is a lighter and more comfortable harness for the players to wear while carrying the gear.
Another defining element of the entertainment format is the inclusion of live music. For certain games, the BBC is producing and broadcasting live select tracks live from the ground from a dedicated 4-camera OB unit. That cut is sent to the main BBC truck where it is switched and sent onto the network.
Behind the Scenes: The Hundred – Live music
Artists performing this year include DYLAN kicking things off at Trent Bridge, Rudimental headlining the final at Lords on 27 August and various BBC Music Introducing artists in between.
The BBC takes a double expander OB unit and non-expander VT unit to each match, both supplied and crewed by Cloudbass in the second year of its contract with the BBC for The Hundred (Arena, the defunct OB outfit, handled the first event in 2020). AE Live provides the graphics onsite.
Connectivity is managed by NEP Connect using Net Insight Nimbra units. This includes transporting signals from Sky’s trucks (supplied by EMG) back to Sky and the output from Sky back to the BBC OB. The BBC also has a satellite backup for its own transmission, also managed by NEP Connect.
Umpire adjudication is conducted the same as for a Test Match with Hawkeye ball and player trackers, although unlike football this is done locally not remotely.
A ‘dirty feed’ of all matches is sent to the BBC in Salford where a team can cut highlights packages for insertion into the programme package.
Trent Rockets beat Manchester Originals in the 2022 men’s final with captain Lewis Gregory’s unbeaten 17 from six balls steering his side to their target of 121 with two balls to spare.
In the women’s event, Oval Invincibles defeated Southern Brave in the final for the second year in a row, topping Brave’s total of 101 with six balls in reserve. Teenager Capsey took two wickets with her off-spin and then hit a quick-fire 25 in Invincibles’ successful chase.
The BBC is the ECB’s free-to-air-broadcast partner in a deal which runs until next year. Last year the ECB signed a new four-year deal (2025-2028) with Sky worth over £220m a year and means The Hundred will be aired until at least 2028 on Sky.