Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98
Lancashire's chairman believes that it would "make absolute sense" for the Hundred to become a T20 competition from 2025, as English cricket continues to debate the tournament's future following top-level discussions over the prospect of opening it up to private investment.
The ECB have been meeting with counties this month to discuss the Hundred's future, following a successful third season for the tournament which saw record ticket sales and viewing figures. The eight teams are owned by the ECB and run by boards comprising county representatives and independent members, but could soon be opened up to private investors.
The Hundred's future is secure for at least five more seasons since it forms a significant part of the ECB's TV rights deal with Sky Sports, which runs until the end of the 2028 season. But the ECB's timeline for potential changes to the competition's ownership structures would see a new model in place ahead of the 2025 edition.
The Daily Telegraph reported last week that the ECB could give host counties equity stakes in their respective teams, and that they will consider adding two new clubs - most likely based in the south-west and the north-east - to create a greater geographical spread.
The Hundred's 100-ball format was hugely controversial at the point of inception, and was devised both to satisfy the desire of the BBC - who are its free-to-air broadcasters - for shorter games and to create a distinction with the Vitality Blast, the counties' T20 tournament which has continued as England's second-tier short-form competition.
The format has largely proved popular with the players and has produced slightly shorter games than the Blast, but has not caught on around the world. Andy Anson, Lancashire's chair, said on Wednesday that the Hundred no longer needs a unique format and should "fall in line" with franchise cricket by shifting to T20.
"It would make absolute sense," Anson told LancsTV, Lancashire's in-house channel. "I think the format was an unnecessary creation. It was there to create a difference between the Blast and the Hundred… I think we are past that now. You won't even need to change the branding of it: it could still be called the Hundred.
"I think it should be T20, just to fall in line with this game that is brilliant. It is the best format of cricket from a global audience perspective. It does generate huge amounts of interest around the world…. I would just fall in line with it, and I do feel, in the meetings I'm in, that there is a sympathy for that attitude and for that change to happen."
The top salary in the men's Hundred was £125,000 in 2023, which represented less money for more work than was on offer to leading overseas players in the inaugural season of Major League Cricket in the United States, where four of the six franchises are backed by IPL owners.
To attract the world's best, Anson believes that the Hundred would require private investment. "If you are going to make the Hundred the second-best tournament after the IPL, you probably need to improve the amount of money going into player wages to get the better players coming in," he said.
"Right now, we've got salary limits that mean the South African league [SA20] is paying more. The Middle Eastern league [ILT20] is certainly going to pay more, and I wouldn't be surprised if the US league [MLC] pays more. And it [the Hundred] will drop down the pecking order, and we can't let that happen actually, from a value perspective."
Bruce Carnegie-Brown, the chair of MCC, who are involved in the running of London Spirit, will consult with members next week to "discuss concepts… and seek a broad consensus" on the club's attitude towards private investment in the Hundred.
"At the moment the way forward is far from certain," Carnegie-Brown - who announced this month he will not stand for re-election at the end of next season - told members in a recent email. "What we do know is that change is coming."
Anson said that Lancashire - who are the sole county involved in running Manchester Originals - will also consult members, and stressed that despite the club's £30 million debt after investment in Emirates Old Trafford, they are "not in any urgent need of capital or cash… the debt is sustainable."
He said: "The opportunity that everyone is discussing is around the Hundred, and if the counties potentially have more ownership of the franchises in the Hundred… we have this discussion at the county chairs and CEOs meeting and I'd say the vast majority would like an injection of capital at some point in the near future."