HISTORY OF THE NATIONAL 60+ COUNTY CHAMPIONSHIP
Summary of Champions:
2012: Cheshire (report)
2013: Kent (report)
2014: Essex (report)
2015: Somerset (report)
2016: Kent (report)
2017: Essex (report to follow)
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.
With a pair of Sponsors backing the new group, Spitfire Shepherd Neame and D & M Sports, a website was immediately created – www.60CC.co.uk - and the new counties came flooding in and an Over 70’s Competition was also introduced. As a consequence the Committee was enlarged with the addition of Hugh Milner, who had run Sussex for decades, Richard Owen, still Derbyshire's wicket keeper in the ECB 50 and Gwyn Blenkinsopp from Wiltshire.
Fame was spreading even further afield and Yorkshire asked if they could join for 2008. Distance was the major problem and, as no other Midlands/ Northern counties appeared interested Yorkshire’s application was deferred for 12 months.
However, Hampshire had got themselves organised and joined to make 10 counties - 9 games per county. A new Sponsor, Shepherd Neame, had been courted and they were well versed in sports sponsorship, especially in South East England where they have a large number of public houses - they are Britain’s oldest brewery, currently 310 years old. Barry had long standing connections with Shepherd Neame as he used to work only 50 yards away from the Brewery and their Head Office in Faversham. This connection was assisted by Howard Smith who was Chairman of The Kent League and was also in negotiation with the brewery over sponsorship for that League.
For 2009 the ten counties who contested the 2008 Championship were joined by eight others (Cheshire, Derbyshire, Yorkshire, Leicestershire, Devon, Somerset, Wiltshire & Cornwall) as well as second team from Surrey, and the competition went nation-wide with North, South, East and West regional groups. The group stage was followed by inter-group play-offs to decide the Spitfire Championship with first round losers playing for the "Plate". The "Spitfire" website also started in 2009.
Norfolk won their 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.
Spitfire Championship Final, 20 September at Letchworth CC, (Hampshire won the toss): Hampshire 270-4, 45 ovs (Mike Swain 128 no., Jeff Owen 88); Norfolk 271-8, 44.5 ovs (Martin Pearse 69, Peter Brown 62 no.): Norfolk won by 2 wickets.
Spitfire Plate, 16th September: Derbyshire/Nottinghamshire beat Suffolk by 19 runs.
Also In 2009 the inaugural O60 Home International took place between England and Wales which subsequently became an annual double header.
The Australians sent over a Test Team and 2 matches were played. England won by 9 wickets in Sheffield and by 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'.
2010 saw more Counties joining making 21 teams (new teams: Durham/Northumberland, Lincolnshire & Wales) and nine entered Second XIs who played in two regional groups. The 70+ matches were played on a more formal basis with three teams from Sussex, Surrey/Kent and Berkshire/Hertfordshire.
The 2010 final had 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 out for a duck by his captain when his son had flown in to see the match from the USA. So agony turned to ecstasy in the space of three minutes – for Cheshire and vice versa for Sussex!
Spitfire Championship, 19th September at Letchworth CC, (Cheshire won the toss): Cheshire 219-9, 45 ovs (Nick Sharp 67, Andy Hurworth 67), Sussex 219 ao, 44.5 ovs (Mark Shimmons 59, Chris Bidwell 68): Cheshire won by losing fewer wkts.
Spitfire Plate, 15th September: Derbyshire 211-8, 45 ovs (Alan Hampshire 82, Alan Hancock 50); Leicestershire 86-6, 28 ovs (Colin Taylor 5-21): Derbyshire won on faster scoring rate.
Spitfire 2nd XI Championship, 22 September at Frinton CC, (Suffolk won the toss): Suffolk 166-4, 45 ovs (D Andrews 54); Surrey 167-4, 44.1 ovs (Greg Van Renen 53 no.): Surrey won by 6 wkts.
Spitfire 2nd XI Plate, 28th September at Worcester, ( Worcestershire won the toss): Worcestershire 167-9, 45 ovs; Norfolk 123 ao, 44.2 ovs: Worcesterhsire won by 44 runs.
In 2011 a Midlands Group was added and the number of 1st XI teams went up to 26 with Northamptonshire, Shropshire, Wawickshire, Middlesex & Gloucestershire joining. The same nine teams contested the 2nd XI Championship but the 70+ competition was increased to five teams with combined teams from Worcestershire/Hampshire and Norfolk/Suffolk joining.
Spitfire 60+ Championship Final at Oakham CC: (Essex won the toss) Cheshire 253-4, 45 ovs (Alan Hitchmough 64, Nick Sharp 65); Essex 229-8, 45 ovs (Malcolm Wright 104, Chris Lees 3-28). Cheshire won by 29 runs.
Spitfire 60+ Plate at Dunstable Town CC: (Sussex won the toss) Northamptonshire 151-5, 30 ovs (Ray Swann 60); Sussex 150-5, 30 ovs (Peter Gray 72*). Northamptonshire won by 1 run.
2nd XI Championship Final at Frinton CC: (Sussex won the toss) Suffolk 192-6, 45 ovs; Sussex 179-7, 45 ovs (Andy Meads 50, Mark Sargeant 3-29). Suffolk won by 13 runs.
2nd XI Championship Plate at Worlingworth CC: (Hertfordshire won the toss) Hertfordshire 187-3, 45 ovs (Chris Wright 90); Norfolk 191-1, 42.3 ovs (Terry Blundell 132*). Norfolk won by 9 wkts.
2012 saw yet another expansion as a combined Cambridgeshire and Huntingdonshire team joined together with Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire. Lancashire entered but in the event were unable to field a side so withdrew, leaving the North Group with four teams and five other groups with five teams in each - 29 teams in all representing 31 counties. Twelve teams entered the Second XI Championship and three counties contested a Third XI League. The season proved to be the wettest for years with 114 group matches out of a scheduled 208 being postponed. Most of these were eventually played but the play-offs were repeatedly delayed and disrupted, although Cheshire were once again worthy winners.
2013 was a much better year as far as the weather was concerned and the group stages and playoffs were all completed on schedule. Sadly, Cornwall withdrew from the Championship - the distances involved eventually proved to be much for their small squad of players, however, Lancashire, after last year's false start, joined and took a full part in the Championship. The number of teams contesting the Championship, therefore, remained at 29 and in 2013 they were organised into five groups of six teams.
Cheshire and Yorkshire both entered the 2nd XI competition making 14 teams, arranged into three groups. The 3rd XI remained a 3 team competition as last year.
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