The Blast bites back: Taunton’s intensity puts the Hundred into dispassionate perspective

If we are to approach impartiality on the matter of modern cricket, an ode to a T20 Blast game at Taunton just after the debut of a city-based, white-ball tournament requires a couple of concessions. Firstly, that the Hundred has and may well do some genuine good for the grassroots game. Second, that cricket in the West Country is an exceptionally prosperous market.

And still, Somerset’s quarter-final against Lancashire felt like the spiritual rallying of a competition greatly undermined by the Hundred’s bursting onto the cricketing scene this summer. The home side beat Lancashire by seven wickets thanks to the wonderful Tom Abell, but more significantly this was a victory for the Blast, for T20, and for county cricket.

Many who have opposed the Hundred have rationalised their arguments with the hypothetical pumping of funds into England’s premier T20 competition, a move that perhaps would have given the sport as much of a boost as the ECB’s new format. Watching the Taunton crowd celebrate the winning runs with such viscerality, it was difficult to counter those claims.

No matter how much merchandise is bought in its opening years, the Hundred will never be able to provide such genuine emotion at a game. Those celebrating on Thursday night were doing so for the love they have for their county, for the sense of identity and belonging that the cricket club has given them. Promote the Blast as you did the Hundred, and new fans will surely be desperate to buy into this galvanising collective. They will want to feel the passion that drove the ground’s feverish atmosphere.

Market the rules of T20 as you did those of the Hundred, and they will become just as penetrable. Broadcast the careers and celebrities of the players involved, and they will be idolised just as the stars of the Hundred were. Make public the viewing figures, the capacity crowds such as this one and the buzz around the ground – far more authentic in the Blast – and the numbers will grow as they did when ‘every ball counted’ last month.

Sport, ultimately, is about experiencing human sensitivities. It is a bubble of belonging that exists completely separately from the apathetic aspects of life. The Hundred has been successful, it has displayed world-class cricketers attracting new fans to the game, but it is too inconsequential to those attending. Perhaps it will gain this sense of real meaning in time, but right now it differs emphatically from the inherited, multi-faceted and impassioned nature of a fan’s link with their county and the tournaments their club partakes in.

As much as the Hundred’s “electricity” has been advertised, so too must that of the Blast. Nights like this quarter-final at Taunton must be fondly reflected upon with the same fervour. Here, as a community filled the air with pride in those representing it, the county game retaliated with a spectacle of stakes unbefitting of its lowly priority on the ECB’s investment agenda.