End of an era as Manor Park hosts very last Carter Cup final
- Credit: Archant
There will be a mixture of sadness and pride in the air on Bank Holiday Monday when the very last Carter Cup Final is staged at Manor Park.
It will be very much the end of an era for Norfolk cricket as a contest between Great Witchingham and Vauxhall Mallards brings the curtain down on a fixture that has been an integral part of the calendar for 50 years.
There was a time when a 60-over final at Lakenham, or more recently Manor Park, was the ultimate target for every club cricketer in the county, with a full day allowing players time to showcase their talents in front of a good-sized crowd, numbering in excess of 500 in days gone by.
Carter Cup chairman Brian Broom remembers those halcyon days well, both as a player and administrator, and having got so much pleasure from the competition over the years it pains him that the 50th final will be the last.
It will also be a matter of sadness for the traditionalists that not everyone shares Brian's passion for the longest form of the one-day game. Indeed, the overwhelming consensus of opinion from the clubs was that the Carter Cup and its subsidiary tournaments had had their day – and as a result organisers decided it was time to call time on a Norfolk institution.
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'My personal feeling is one of sadness – to me it's a real shame it's coming to an end because I am still a firm believer in 60-over cricket,' said Brian, 76, who appeared in four finals as a player and came out on the losing side each time.
'It has certainly produced some wonderful finals over the years, first at Lakenham and then Manor Park.
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'But, unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be the interest in playing on both Saturdays and Sundays these days. We did a survey of all the clubs involved and only had about 15 replies as I remember – many didn't even bother. And most of the responses we did get back said we were getting it wrong, the games lasted too long.
'People suggested shorter games of 20-25 overs a side, but we weren't interested in doing that. I am sure RG Carter would have continued to back the competition in its present form, but there just isn't the interest out there any more and that is why we have decided to call it a day.'
While Brian admits there will be some emotion when he makes a speech at tea on Monday, he also made it clear he would be holding his head up high.
'It will be a sad day - but along with plenty of other people behind the scenes I am pleased I know I did my bit to keep it going for all these years,' he said. 'I have been involved almost from the start and have loved every minute of it, I really have.'
The Norfolk Cricket Association 60 Over Sunday Knock-out Tournament, as it was known at the outset, was the brainchild of Eric Bedwell, who thought it would be a good idea for local clubs to battle it out on a Sunday afternoon. Having got 14 clubs to participate, the tournament got under way, with local construction company RG Carter coming on board mid-season. The very first final in 1969 saw Dereham beat Hunstanton by 70 runs and for many the years the competition went from strength to strength, with 32 clubs involved by 1971 and reserves waiting in the wings.
Through thick and thin the one constant has been the sponsors.
Their involvement was prompted by chairman Bob Carter, who believed that sponsorship of sport was a duty of local companies, and it continued after his death in 1981 through his widow Mary, later Lady Mary Carter-South and, to this day, through his son Robert.
'The connection with Robert and his family has been absolutely fantastic for the competition, ' said Brian. 'Where else in the country would you find a company that has sponsored a sporting event for 50 years? We can't thank them enough for the support they have provided.
'When Mr Carter passed away, Robert Junior, as I call him, took up the mantle with his wife Charlotte and it has been a success all the way through.'
Robert Carter will be carrying out the toss before the game to mark the occasion, with the fixture getting under way at 12 noon. Admission is free and organisers are hoping a slice of Norfolk cricketing history will attract a bumper attendance.
'The more people there the better,' said Brian. 'Everyone is welcome for what I am sure will be a very enjoyable afternoon, if a rather sad one at the same time.'