Second-season syndrome has been the scourge of many Premier League managers.
After impressing in your first year on the big stage, how do you come back, consolidate and even improve?
This year, The Hundred faced a similar problem after a promising but highly controversial first edition.
To loosely continue the footballing analogy, a thrilling final at a feverish Lord’s helped avoid relegation. But urgent questions remain for the rest of the tournament.
Was it a success?
After the first season was hit by Covid-19, 2022 has been billed as the year The Hundred began, aided by the introduction of bigger and better foreign stars.
The women’s competition once again impressed – but with much of the men’s competition there was an ongoing sense that the competition was drifting.
For organizers, however, Saturday’s final at Lord’s was a timely reminder of what this competition could be – a tense affair on primetime Saturday night television before a diverse audience with enough intrigue to keep the established cricket base and those tuning in for the first time to entertain, albeit not in the six-beat style expected by those who dreamed up the format.
But it’s undeniable that in the midst of competition there were times when one-sided games followed one-sided games.
Whether that’s down to format or bad luck is hard to say, although the impact of England’s extensive injury list shouldn’t be overlooked.
Had the likes of Jofra Archer, Mark Wood, Chris Woakes, Olly Stone and Saqib Mahmood played a part, the quality would have gone up. That’s before you factor in the players eliminated mid-tournament – Jemimah Rodrigues in the women’s and Jos Buttler, Liam Livingstone, Chris Jordan, Tymal Mills and Reece Topley in the men’s.
Whether or not it’s a direct result, the BBC’s television viewing figures fell by 20% compared to the first year, with a clash with the Commonwealth Games and the early start of the Premier League season being cited by executives as factors became.
Tournament bosses say they are more focused on ticket sales as a barometer of interest and have surpassed those attendance figures over the last year.
All eight venues also set new records for women’s matches, while 28% of ticket buyers were female and 22% of those on site were under 16 – both rising from 2021 as English cricket hunts new audiences to future-proof the sport make.
Still, The Hundred must find a way to first attract and then retain the best male foreign talent if it is to be truly successful.
Talks with other leagues continue to avert the scenario seen in recent days where some of The Hundred’s foreign stars – including leg spinner Tabraiz Shamsi, who would have played for Trent Rockets in the final – went to the Caribbean Premier League as much as the competition has reached the end of its business life.
A women’s draft for 2023?
After a delayed start due to the Commonwealth Games, the women’s competition proved that it is not an add-on or sideshow, but an integral and crucial part of the overall event.
It brought more life to what was a men-only event for the first eight days.
Unlike the men’s competition, the very best foreign players in the world were featured, leading to an increase in quality, even if some of the biggest names – like Alyssa Healy and Sophie Devine – failed to fire.
But the top salaries remain at a quarter of the men, so there is still room for improvement. If women’s competition is essential to the overall product, players should be paid as such.
For the first two years, these players were signed behind closed doors.
Organizers have told BBC Sport that they think the competition could be poised for a draft process similar to the men’s system in the coming years.
So what next?
With the hundred Part of a television contract running until 2028, and organizers keen to point out who will be introduced to the game, there’s little chance it will be scrapped, even if critics would like to return to the traditional balance of the English game.
Players, who have all been paid to take part, are enjoying the tournament while the captains have spoken of the exciting challenge this format brings.
One player described The Hundred as the most entertaining of the global leagues but said with the England and Wales Cricket Board ultimately running the competition he lacked the external pressure of his rivals.
When a player or coach does poorly in the Indian Premier League, they have a fan base and team owners behind them. The hundred don’t have that pressure.
One solution would be to bring external money into the eight teams, which would also offer the opportunity to increase player salaries, but that too would be highly controversial and is not expected to be an option for the foreseeable future.
Even with higher salaries, there would be no certainty that The Hundred would be able to attract bigger male stars given the intense international schedule.
From The Hundred’s perspective, that calendar should improve for next year when a window is built into the English summer to allow England’s players to take part. Whether they’ll do so after an intense Ashes streak that precedes it is another question.
It is currently the responsibility of “team boards” – groups of county and other cricket officials on each team – to hold players and coaches accountable for performance.
Bottomd with eight defeats from eight, the Welsh Fire side have lost 13 of their last 14 games and could benefit from a refreshment – with or without coach Gary Kirsten.
An eight-team tournament cannot afford to wear whipping boys.
Overall, it remains to be seen whether The Hundred will retain a place in our lives in the long run.
Some music teachers say people only remember your first and last notes. Does a good final make up for a lackluster tournament?