Summary of Home Counties Champions:
2008: Essex & Hampshire (shared)
Back in 2003 Barry Smith realised that a number of good club cricketers could no longer hold a regular place in the over 50’s County Championship and, like himself, were becoming a little disillusioned with regular League cricket. Hugh Milner of Sussex agreed that there was possible scope for an over 60’s competition but, after enquiring of other Home Counties, the only potential problem seemed to be whether there would be enough 60 year olds of sufficient standard in each county.
Hertfordshire, Essex and Surrey joined Kent and Sussex in the new venture for 2004 with the rules based on those which the over 50’s used. However, it was initially agreed that each county could play two 59 year old players in each game. As the instigator of the idea, Barry agreed to be the Competition Organiser and each county played home & away against each other - 8 games in the season with the two top teams playing in a final.
The objective was that the counties would stage the Final in turn and Surrey undertook this in 2004. On an excellent Sunday in September at Dorking C.C., Sussex played Essex and the latter won by 49 runs. As Barry was presenting the cup to the Essex Captain, we were all interrupted by the Royal Bypass of Spitfire, Mosquito and Lancaster as they had just left Biggin Hill Airshow to return to their base - where ever that was. A true finale to the first season.
In 2005 the same two teams again met in the final at Radlett, Hertfordshire and again Essex were triumphant by 6 runs - no airshow this year!!
By 2006 the message had spread and Suffolk and Norfolk joined to increase the competition to 7 Counties. Essex hosted the final at Brentwood but were not one of the competitors. Sussex again qualified but this year with Kent and in a close game Sussex won by 4 wickets in the final over.
By now many counties, even if not playing in the Championship, had a regular list of friendly games and this encouraged Worcestershire and Berkshire to join in 2007. It was no longer practical to play games on a home & away basis with 9 counties and so each county only played each other once.
This was gradually taking the competition outside of the Home Counties and distance travelling was becoming involved which some counties were happy with but others were not so keen. It was in 2007 that Barry managed to obtain some sponsorship for the Championship and this assisted all counties by subsidising the cost of the balls. Having played for 3 years and discovered that counties now seemed to have enough 60 year olds, it was agreed to phase out the under-aged players over the next two seasons.
The competition had basically resurrected social club cricket, although it was competitive, for many club players who may well have hung up their boots had it not been organised. The weather in 2007 was horrendous and of the 36 scheduled games only 14 were played on their original dates, a further 15 were replayed and 7 never even happened!.
Sussex again played Kent in the final at Sittingbourne and this match saw one of the highest totals ever scored - Sussex were 333 for 4 after 45 overs on what was described as a good batting track! Kent never managed to keep up the pace and were dismissed for 171.
In 2008 bad weather for 3 separate weeks during the season caused havoc with the fixture list but 43 of the 45 games were eventually played and the non-results of the two that weren’t had no effect on the finalists who were Essex and Hampshire, in their first season.
Suffolk hosted the game at Copdock and for the first time in 5 years, rain struck. Hampshire completed their innings at 189 for 7 off 45 overs and in reply Essex got to 36 for 2 off 15 overs when drizzle appeared. All players wanted to keep going and Essex got to 100 for 2 in 26 overs when conditions were getting silly, if not dangerous, and the umpires decided that everybody had had enough. The two teams, with the Organiser’s agreement, agreed to share the trophy for 2008.