THE HISTORY OF THE CRICKETER CUP
The Cricketer Cup was conceived over a glass or two of port by Tony Winlaw and the late Henry Lewis during a game between I Zingari and South Wales Hunts in 1966. On their return to London they chanced upon Ben Brocklehurst in the bar of the Bath Club and after a few more drinks, during which the idea was kicked around, the competition was born.
Originally for the old boys of 16 Public Schools, the competition proved so popular in its first year that it was extended to 32 teams in 1969. Forty four ffnals have so far produced 14 different winners, led by Old Tonbridgians with no fewer than 14 successful campaigns to their credit. A further eight clubs have fallen at the final fence, Harrow Wanderers suffering the greatest misfortune, having lost in four Finals, three of them to Old Malvernians.
In his introduction to the Silver Jubilee yearbook, Ben Brocklehurst, then Chairman of The Cricketer magazine, wrote: ‘The Cricketer Cup now represents some of the best amateur cricket played in the land. By and large, it also represents cricket played in the best spirit of the game.’ The quality of the players is confirmed by the impressive number of county cricketers who have appeared in the competition, some before they made the grade and others after retirement from the rigours of the weekly grind on the county circuit. In addition the participating schools have produced 26 Test match players, including six captains, who between them have won over 500 Test caps.
From 1967 to 1983 the Final was played on The Household Brigade’s ground at Burton Court and from 1984 to 1994 at the Westminster School ground in Vincent Square. In 1995 it became necessary to find a new home for the Final and it was with great good fortune that the Bank of England’s magnificent facilities in Roehampton were secured where Old Wellingtonians triumphed for the first time, overcoming Old Malvernians. The Bank also proved popular with Bradfield Waifs who, after failing to reach a Final in 29 years, defeated Uppingham Rovers in 1996 and Old Tonbridgians in 1997, thus becoming only the third club to defend their title successfully. Following the merger between The Cricketer and Wisden Cricket Monthly the 2003 Final was contested at the late Sir Paul Getty’s idyllic private ground at Wormsley and from 2004 to 2009 at Richmond Cricket Club in Old Deer Park. In 2010 the final was played at Shenley which was first mooted as the ideal venue for the Final back in the 1980s.
Over the years the Finals have produced some memorable contests. The first Final featured two Test match captains, Donald Carr leading Repton Pilgrims to victory over Radley Rangers, captained by Ted Dexter. Ten years later, Nick Pocock, later to captain Hampshire, practically won the match single-handed. Assisted by the Hon. Tim Lamb, past Chief Executive of the E.C.B., he took 4 for 16 as Oundle Rovers were bowled out for 117 and then made 98 not out in the Shrewsbury Saracens score of 118 for 1.
In the rain-affected 1982 Final the Old Malvernian captain, Jeff Tolchard, formerly of Leicestershire, realised that his only hope of victory was to take the unprecedented decision to declare at 104 for 8 and rely on bowling out Old Wykehamists. His enterprise was almost rewarded, the last Winchester pair grimly hanging on to see them home on a superior run rate at 75 for 9.
Records tumbled in the 1993 Final between Old Cliftonians and Old Tonbridgians. The Cliftonians surpassed all previous Final scores in reaching 304 for 4. Their captain, John Meadows, with 144 not out, and Bill Lawry, 106, added 239 for the second wicket, a record for any wicket in the history of the competition. They also became the first two batsmen to complete hundreds in a Final. In Old Tonbridgians’ reply, Ashley Fine, with 6 for 46, equalled the record number of dismissals by a bowler in a Final. Two significant records were established in 2001. Robert White, now with Northamptonshire, became the first double-centurion, making 206 for Stowe Templars against Old Whitgiftians. His innings lasted a minute under three hours and included 25 boundaries, 22 fours and three sixes. In a first-wicket stand of 219 his partner’s contribution was just 37. In the second round, Old Brightonians amassed the enormous total of 458 for 6 against Haileybury Hermits. They achieved some assistance from the Hermits’ contribution of 64 extras, only one of which was a bye.
History was made at Brighton College on 23 June, 2002 when Clare Connor, the former England Women’s captain, became the first ‘old girl’ to appear in the competition when she helped Old Brightonians to victory in their second round encounter with Lancing Rovers. Her eight overs of orthodox left-arm spin cost only 14 runs and a prominent Rover subsequently admitted that run-scoring was of secondary importance to the preservation of his wicket while she was bowling! Following the first Annual General Meeting of the competition which was held at the Winchester House Club on the 21st October 2004, for the first time in 2005 the competition was reduced to a 50 over game. Sadly in 2006 Old Blundellians felt they were no longer able to raise a side to play in the competition. This was the first time a problem of this nature had arisen, and the Committee inivted the Old Cranleighans to take their place. Since then the competition has seen Old Westminsters and Lancing Rovers replaced by Old Bedfordians and Old Eastbournians. With the demise of the Brewers Cup and the Cricket World Trophy the competition is under constant pressure to increase its size and this is a topic that is under constant discussion. And this is one of the reasons that The Cricketer Trophy was started in 2011 to give eight schools a chance to show that they were worthy of a place in the main competition
No introduction to The Cricketer Cup would be complete without a tribute to Old Tonbridgians. In addition to their 12 victories they have reached the Final on six other occasions. They were finalists in four successive years from 1970 to 1973. They are one of only three sides to defend their title successfully and in 2004, they became the first club to record 100 victories in the competition and also win the trophy three years running. They have produced 15 county cricketers and five England Test players – Colin Cowdrey, Chris Cowdrey, Richard Ellison, Roger Prideaux and most recently, Ed Smith. Their batsmen have scored 24 centuries and occupy the top two places in the overall batting averages. They have produced one of only two bowlers to take over 100 wickets, and have three players amongst the eight top all rounders in the competition.