‘It’s only going to get bigger and better’ – Liam Livingstone on The Hundred

Liam Livingstone wants to capitalise on the popularity of the first season of The Hundred by helping the second season to become bigger and better – both for himself and for the teams involved.

The 28-year-old batting all-rounder starred for Birmingham Phoenix last season. He hit a huge 27 sixes on his way to scoring 348 runs – both the highest totals of any player.

Birmingham reached the final, after topping the group with six wins from eight matches. They eventually lost out to Oval Invincibles. Livingstone, typically, still top scored for his team, with 46 runs from just 19 balls.

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Livingstone has had a reputation for power-hitting for many years. It dates back to when he smashed 350 runs off 138 balls for club side Nantwich in 2015.

He then rose through the ranks at Lancashire, firstly in the T20 format, before becoming an established player in all three formats. He spent a season as captain in 2017, before stepping down and eventually transitioning into a worldwide white-ball specialist.

Incidentally, his record in first-class cricket is still exceptional – the 28-year-old averages over 38 from 94 innings, with seven centuries and a top score of 224.

But it is fair to say that Livingstone has gained more of a reputation in the last few years for his white-ball exploits.

And it was last year where he really announced himself to the world, smashing England’s fastest-ever T20I century against Pakistan.

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That came just a month before The Hundred getting underway, with Liam Livingstone catapulting himself into becoming a household name throughout the summer.

The Hundred being on free-to-air television undoubtedly aided that pursuit, with over 16.1 million people tuning in to watch the competition across Sky Sports and BBC.

Speaking exclusively to Sporf during a media day before The Hundred, the Birmingham Phoenix star admitted that he feared how the tournament would be received at first. However, he witnessed, first-hand, that the audience reception improved as it went on.

He explained: “Us players, we didn’t really know what to expect. And I guess it was, sort of, fear of the unknown. As sportsmen, you’re always scared that the people aren’t going to turn out and come and watch.

“I was speaking to friends and family that just didn’t watch cricket. You’d go home and speak to people, and they’d be like, ‘Oh, watched the cricket last night?’ And I’d be like, ‘Why? You’ve never watched cricket before. I’ve played for eight years, and you’ve never watched me, so how come you’re now watching cricket?’

“It just became the norm to stick The Hundred on at night. I guess we sort of likened it to Love Island. Love Island is on at 9pm every night, and The Hundred was on at 6pm every night, you know?

“So, I’m not comparing us to Love Island, but yeah, I guess it was that easy thing to just stick on while you were making tea, or you’re having tea, or whatever. It sort of went from there, and I’m guessing it was the easy way to follow, the 100 balls. It got people involved that never used to watch cricket.”

As Liam Livingstone mentions, one of the critical areas of focus for The Hundred was inspiring a new generation of fans – particularly younger audiences. And the Birmingham Phoenix star believes that it has worked a treat.

“I think the biggest thing I found last year was that you’d see kids with the team shirts on. We’d go to a service station, and you’d see a lad walking around in a Manchester Originals shirt. We’ve never really had that before.

“I guess the cool thing for us was inspiring the kids to make cricket cool. To make cricket enjoyable, and fun. To try it out, to go out and play with your mates on the field, and get a bat and ball and play cricket, just like you do with football.

“I guess that was the biggest motive for us as players, to try and inspire that generation, which then inspires, if they want to go and watch a game and they’re 10 years old, they’ve got to bring their parents with them, haven’t they?

“That was the biggest thing that we saw from The Hundred – the amount of families that were in there, and the younger age group of people watching cricket.

“So I guess if you do inspire that generation, you’re going to grow the franchises, you’re going to make it bigger and better, and I guess from where we started last year to where we ended year one, it’s only going to get bigger and better.”

On the field, Livingstone had little issue in adapting to the new Hundred format, compared to T20 cricket. And although preparations were slightly different for each game, with the double headers of women’s and men’s games on the same day, the 28-year-old says The Hundred suited him down to the ground.

“It sounds bad, but we went out there to try and have fun, and do it with a smile on our faces. I guess you could see that as the tournament went on. We were certainly enjoying ourselves playing in the tournament.

“Certainly, I look back with very fond memories from last year. So I guess that’s the reason everybody’s excited about what is to come this year. Hopefully, it can be bigger and better.

“I guess the cool thing about The Hundred last year was the lack of planning that was needed. It was more, go out there and have a smile on your face, and enjoy yourself. And, I guess, go and try and show off your ability. Certainly, as Birmingham Phoenix, that’s what we tried to do.

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“We tried to go and bowl as quick as we could, hit as many sixes as we could. So yeah, that was our philosophy last year, and I can’t see it changing with them. I was captain, so yeah, thankfully, there’s not too much planning that goes along.”

The Hundred men’s competition gets underway on August 3, with defending champions Southern Brave taking on Welsh Fire.

Liam Livingstone and Birmingham Phoenix start their campaign on August 6, taking on Trent Rockets at Trent Bridge.

The Hundred women’s competition starts on August 11, with holders Oval Invincibles taking on Northern Superchargers. The first men and women double-header takes place on the same day.

The Hundred is cricket’s newest competition that fuses blockbuster entertainment with world-class cricket. 100 balls per team, most runs win – every ball counts. Eight teams from seven cities with men’s and women’s competitions taking place side by side.

Featured Image Credit: England and Wales Cricket Board