In July 2008, founder of the Home Counties League, Barry Smith, had decided to retire from the organization. To cut a long story short, Martin Pearse ( Norfolk ) offered to create a new National County O60 Championship enlisting Gil Collins (Hants), Martin Couch ( Surrey ) and Gerald Wadley (Worcestershire) as fellow Committee Members. Martin Pearse had created the England Squash Masters in 2004 (under the umbrella of England Squash), representing all players over 35, Men and Women and knew that following the same guidelines, promoting O60 Cricket would be successful.

With a pair of Sponsors backing the new group, Spitfire Shepherd Neame and D & M Sports, a website was immediately created – - and the new counties came flooding in.

In Martin Pearse's own words, ‘The ECB 50 Competition has stagnated to the extent the only real benefit was the cricket, no interest shown by the ECB due to staffing problems and financial restraints and as Norfolk's Secretary and player since 1996, I felt that a major opportunity to give ‘Masters' a chance to continue playing was needed. A lot of 50 players are ‘dropped' by their Counties when 53 or 54, their clubs don't want them either as it is all Youth policy Diktat. So what has been happening? – They leave cricket and take up golf! With the creation of a National O60 set up, it gives players a new lease of life!! We are extremely well organized, Martin Couch is the Foreign/International organizer, and very good at it, Gerald is the Rules man and Gil is my no 2, so to speak, and Over 70 helper – yes, we have an O70 competition as well! As we have become so much bigger, with now 26 Counties (and soon more), we enlarged the Committee, Hugh Milner, who has run Sussex for decades, Richard Owen, still Derbyshire's wicket keeper in the ECB 50 and Gwyn Blenkinsopp from Wiltshire. All the Committee are involved in upgrading everything, but the glue is the website and Michael Webb its administrator.

In 2009, I organized the first O60 Home International v Wales and this has become an annual double header. Also in 2009, the Australians (with lots of work done by Martin Couch) sent over an Test Team and 2 matches were played. England won by 9 wickets in Sheffield and 130 runs at Sunbury on Thames , both played in front of large crowds. The tourists had only just started their 60's set up having not played for twenty years and therefore were well off the pace compared to the league honed English cricketers. The Australians are very keen on Tradition and History and bought their own ‘Ashes Trophy'. This season (2011) Australia returned again and Sky TV and Yorkshire TV recorded a stunning 147 run victory by England at Keith Boyce's Club, New Rover C.C. It helped that Ray Swann (Northants), Father of you know who, was playing. He made 99 and Bob Eames ( Devon ) made 104. Plus, England have been invited over to Australia for 6 Ashes Tests in November and December (2011) and have selected a very strong squad.'

In the County Championship itself back in 2009, Norfolk won the first title, beating Hampshire (270-4) Mike Swain 128 and Geoff Owen 88 by 2 wickets, with Martin Pearse 69 and Peter Brown 62*, guiding the East Anglians to victory off the last ball. The day before in 92 degrees heat at Horsham, Norfolk had beaten favourites Sussex in the much delayed Semi Final with 255-6 in 40 (Pearse 60 and Brown 60*) and Sussex all out for 150 so it was two big matches in two days.

In 2010, a Final with an even more nail biting finale, if that is possible. Cheshire had totalled 219-9, courtesy of Nick Sharp's 67 and Andy Hurworth's 67, Sussex kept up the chase, with a circumspect (unusual, this,) Mark Shimmons making 59 (it transpires the circumspect bit was because he had torn a hamstring) and lanky opener Chris Bidwell pacing the chase with a diligent 68. Cue to the start of the last over - Sussex were on 215-7 with six balls to go. 4 off the first, so the scores were equal. All Sussex had to do was to block the last 5 balls. They did the first ball, but showing that common sense doesn't always rationale with pressure, lost the third, fourth and fifth balls to a cracking catch at square leg a bowled and then an lbw, given by the East Anglia Premier League Umpire John Stuck, who proclaimed it one of the best ever balls he had seen bowled – by Ted Williams. Ted had earlier been run for a duck by his captain when his son had flown in to see the match from the USA . So agony turned to ecstacy in the space of three minutes – for Cheshire and visa versa for Sussex !

Martin Pearse




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