The new competition is finally here.
After all the hype, all the talking, all the debate, all the controversy, the men’s tournament commences today.
Yes, at North Marine Road, Scarborough, Yorkshire take on Surrey in the Royal London Cup.
Well, what did you think I was talking about – The Hundred? That thing with “fives” instead of “overs” and “strategic timeouts”?
It’s enough to make a cat laugh.
But it’s precisely because of The Hundred, a concept riding roughshod through English cricket, and barging off-road all else in its path, that there are actually two men’s tournaments starting today, with a much-changed RLC now reduced to a second-class affair shorn of so many of the country’s best players.
For as much as those running cricket baulk at the word, as if no one will notice this collateral damage, the RLC is now a quasi “development” competition, not quite a second-team affair but certainly featuring plenty of second-team players.
This, of course, is good for those players and also their counties in the sense that the players will gain exposure and experience.
Yorkshire, missing an entire 11 to The Hundred if one includes T20 signing Lockie Ferguson, view the 50-over format in the only way that it can be viewed – as a chance for the players left/not involved in The Hundred to grasp the nettle and make a name for themselves.
“My goal going into it is to help develop the young lads,” said club captain Steve Patterson, who has handed over the leadership reins for this competition. I may play a few games, but seeing the young lads develop is what I want to see most from this comp, although we’ll obviously be doing our best to win.
“It’s an opportunity for them to stand up and to make a real name for themselves – finish top run-scorer in the group, or top wicket-taker as a young lad, then there would be a bright future ahead.
“There’ll be a lot of opportunities and, from our perspective, that’s a good thing.”
Today’s game, the first competitive Yorkshire match at Scarborough since August 2019, and the first List A fixture there since 2016, is the first of eight group contests scheduled, with the 18 counties split into two groups of nine.
The top team from each group qualifies for the semis, with the second and third-placed sides playing-off for the other semi-final spots.
Patterson, 37, hinted at his own reservations as 50-over cricket now plays second fiddle.
“I’ve always struggled to understand how England put such emphasis on 50-over cricket but, domestically, we seem to not put much,” he said. “It’s a real puzzle for me, that.
“But, at the end of the day, my attitude is, if you represent Yorkshire, you represent Yorkshire, no matter what the format of the game. You go out there, it stands for a lot and you give it your all, that’s what I’ll be saying to the lads.”
Patterson, effectively a player/coach, with bowling coach Rich Pyrah stepping up to lead in the absence of first XI coach Andrew Gale, who is with Northern Superchargers, is glad to have Scarborough back on the rota.
In few aspects of Yorkshire cricket has the pandemic been more keenly felt than in the absence of fixtures at North Marine Road, which not only saw no Yorkshire action last year but also the loss of the Championship Roses match earlier this month before restrictions were eased.
“Part of what I’m looking forward to is that we can take the 50-over tournament around the county,” said Patterson.
“We’ve got a couple of games at Scarborough, a couple of games at York, so it will be great to be back at those grounds again.
“It will be really good fun, and I think we’ll see a lot of energy with a young group. We should get a good following, some good support, especially with the rules being relaxed about crowds.”
Yorkshire warmed up for today’s match with a friendly against Northumberland at Scarborough on Tuesday, which the hosts won comfortably by nine wickets. Will Fraine struck an unbeaten 146 as Yorkshire chased 255 with 11.4 overs of the 50 to spare.
Yorkshire squad: Ballance, Bess (captain), Coad, Duke, Fraine, Hill, Luxton, Olivier, Patterson, Pillans, Revis, Shutt, Sullivan, Tattersall, Waite.