League elects to play even more matches

THE region's biggest cricket league will be even bigger next summer - and most of the teams will play more matches.It was agreed at the Marshall Hatchick Two Counties Championship on Monday night that the size of divisions would go up from 10 to 12 teams.

Malcolm Grubb

THE region's biggest cricket league will be even bigger next summer - and most of the teams will play more matches.

It was agreed at the Marshall Hatchick Two Counties Championship on Monday night that the size of divisions would go up from 10 to 12 teams.

Chairman Norman Atkins, who draws up the fixtures for the eight divisions, pointed out that there are 18 Saturdays between the start of May and the end of August, which meant divisions of ten fitted in exactly with each team playing the other nine at home and away.

However, with 12 teams - and 22 matches - four more dates would have to be found outside the principal four months of the season.

Club delegates agreed that there would be two extra rounds at the end of April, and two more at the beginning of September from next season onwards.

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This will inevitably lead to some clashes for clubs that share their grounds with football clubs, and will mean that cricketers who also play football or rugby may have difficult decisions to make when the seasons overlap.

With Division One champions Halstead going up to the East Anglian Premier League, only one team will be relegated from each division. However, with the divisions increasing to 12 teams, the number of divisions will be reduced from nine to eight.

Two new teams were elected - West Bergholt and Tendring, who will both play in Division Eight.

There were a record number of proposals, and a record number of rule changes agreed. This was mainly due to the change agreed at the 2007 AGM that proposals could be passed by a simple majority of votes - previously a two-thirds majority had been needed.

Other changes agreed were:

All matches to start at 1pm (12.30pm in September).

Two new balls to be used for all matches.

Teams conceding matches will be fined £50 (up from £25) while further concessions would also involve points deductions and, after four offences, expulsion from the league.

Suffolk-based teams relegated from Division Three can choose to go down to Division Four rather than returning to the Suffolk Premier League.

CHAIRMAN Norman Atkins paid tribute to Ron Noyce, the Two Counties Championship president, who died in March.

“Ron was a driving force in setting up the Two Counties Champinship in 1971,” said Atkins.

He was supported by his wife, Hazel, who had died in the previous September, and the couple were to be seen at most Two Counties events.

Atkins pointed out that Noyce was a great proponent of the spirit of cricket, and hoped that this attitude would be applied to matches in the competition in 2009.

John Bradley, who retired after 22 years as treasurer, was elected as the new president.

In his chairman's report, Atkins also praised the Over-50s and Over-60s teams organised by manager Geoff Newman and captains Phil Cox and Graham Penny.

He also bemoaned another wet summer - the third in a row when a lot of fixtures were badly affected - and pointed out the complaints made to the management committee regarding conceded matches, the poor facilities at some club's second grounds, and slow over-rates.

A proposal from the management sub-committee to replace the current average points system with one in which total points would decide final league positions was defeated.

Other proposals to be turned down included suggestions to split the league into geographical regions and to allow Suffolk Premier League teams be given the opportunity to join at a higher level in 2010.

The Two Counties Championship annual dinner will be held at Hintlesham Golf Club on Saturday, November 15.

Trophies will be presented to all winning teams on that night.

Officers were elected as follows:

President: John Bradley

Chairman: Norman Atkins

Secretary: Gill Denny

Assistant secretary: Alan Rogers

Treasurer: Andrew Barnes

Fixtures/statistics secretary: Mel Phair

Management sub-committee: Tom Gould and Pat Patel (Essex) and Rick Jones and Roger Troughton (Suffolk)

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