Norfolk leagues come together to provide competitive games

Competitive cricket returns to Norfolk next weekend Picture: Bradenham Cricket Club

Competitive cricket returns to Norfolk next weekend Picture: Bradenham Cricket Club - Credit: Archant

The Norfolk Cricket Board (NCB) has launched a one-off Saturday competition following the government go-ahead to resume recreational play.

It will involve 102 club teams drawn from the Norfolk Cricket Alliance and the Norfolk Cricket League and means more than 1,000 players returning to the sport.

The one-off competition involves 255 fixtures to be played between next Saturday and the end of August.

Teams have been divided into 17 mini groups, of six which will see each playing, initially, five matches with the final week in August earmarked for potential play-off games. Groups have been formed based upon league finishing positions in 2019 and, where possible, geographical location.

Both Saturday Leagues were forced to abandon plans for their usual league formats once the full impact of Covid-19 was known. They had hoped to complete half a season, which became increasingly impossible as the green light to resume play was delayed beyond the agreed cut-off date.

However, the NCB were keen provide some sort of competitive cricket, for fear of losing players to other sports.

The rules have been deliberately kept as simple as possible with matches being played over 40 overs per innings with flexibility to reduce this figure and to amend start times to suit both teams. Matches can also be re-arranged in the event of inclement weather. Given that some clubs have chosen not to take part, player registration has been relaxed, allowing players to play where they may be required.

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Cricket Development Director, Lewis Denmark said: “We are delighted that we have been able to put this competition together and, as far as we are aware, are the only Cricket Board to take on such a commitment.

“We fully supported the leagues’ decision, who had no choice but to abandon their normal league structures but when the formal return to recreational cricket was announced on July 3 we wanted to put something competitive in place rather than rely on clubs to arrange their own friendlies. Our Board team have worked incredibly hard over the last two weeks to put a brand new competition together – from setting the rules, engaging with clubs, working out the groups and fixtures to setting up a completely new Play-Cricket site which will provide a weekly update service for all results and league tables.

“We are very grateful to the additional support we have received from both Leagues’ management committees and also the Umpires and Scorers Association who will be providing match officials where possible – it has been a brilliant team effort all round.

“Clubs will all have to adhere to the current ECB and Government restrictions to facilitate play, but with everybody so keen to have the opportunity to finally play we are confident that the competition will be a success with matches being played in the true spirit of cricke.”