Four ties complete in round one
A total of 255 teams are chasing a spot in this year's final of the ECB National Club Championship - with a number of extremely interesting ties thrown up in the First Round draw.
The only club to have been given a bye are Chester-le-Street CC, the current holders. The Final is to be played at Derbyshire’s County Ground for the second year running, as once again Lord’s is unable to host this fixture, on Saturday September 18.
Four ties have already been completed ahead of the scheduled date for this Round on May 16, two more are set for Sunday May 2 at Alder and Highfield in Lancashire where Preston and Chester Boughton Hall are the respective opposition.
Sunday May 9 will see five more ties, and 114 ties will take place on May 16 - with the final two scheduled for May 23 due to the home grounds at Grappenhall and Cambridge Granta being used for Minor Counties fixtures on the scheduled date.
Some clubs decided to get their campaign off to an early start. Clifton (Central Lancashire) and Morecambe (Northern Prem) were the quickest out the blocks playing their match on April 11. It proved to be high scoring and with the added bonus of a nail-biting finish.
Clifton batted first and after losing an early wicket with 23 on the board saw Andy Griffiths (84) and Alex Rodzoch (84) put on 157 for the second wicket. Once this pair departed there was a flurry of wickets as Clifton tried to increase the run rate, their innings eventually closing on 227 for six.
Pick of the Morecambe bowlers was Tommy Clough who took 3-26 in his nine overs, and his side got off to a good start as Phillip Dennison (39) fell with the score on 59. His opening partner Mark Woodhead (66) continued the good work and six of the Morecambe batsmen reached double figures as a combined team effort saw them squeak home by three wickets on the penultimate ball of the match.
Nerves had really been jangling when Clough was run out for three with 18 runs still required but Alex Thistlethwaite (34 not out) kept his head and guided the team home. Morecambe now have a long wait until June 6 when they will travel in the Second Round to either Golborne (Bolton Assoc) or Leyland (Northern Prem).
Three matches were scheduled to be played on April 25. Bury and Southport & Birkdale were unlucky to fall foul of the elements, especially given how glorious the weather has been over the last three weeks, and had to decide their tie on a bowl-out. Bury (Manchester Assoc) were the winners of this lottery against their opponents from the Liverpool Competition.
Two matches were played on the other side of the Pennines, both in Group 3. Honley (Drakes Huddersfield League), making their first appearance in this competition, pulled off a major shock as they humbled Sheffield Collegiate from the Yorkshire Premier League. Honley won the toss and batted first. Opener Simon Kelly (54) gave them a good start but could not find a partner to stay with him. When Simon was dismissed with the score 100 for five Sheffield Collegiate looked to be favourites; but new batsman, Harlon Haye, had different ideas.
He scored 67 not out off 74 balls with two sixes and seven fours as Honley reached 213 for eight in their 45 overs. In reply the Sheffield innings never got going as opening bowlers Ritchie Howarth (5-12) and the ubiquitous Haye (2-20) caused terminal damage to their opponents challenge as they were reduced to 54 for eight. Tailenders Tom Lister (35) and Tommy Bartles (17) added some respectability to the total but Collegiate were bowled out after 32 overs for 110 therefore crashing to a 103-run defeat.
Hanging Heaton, along with East Bierley as the first ever entrants from the Bradford League to this competition, entertained Doncaster Town (Yorkshire Prem). Despite suffering relegation last season in the Bradford League the hosts were to give their Yorkshire Premier League opponents a real fright. A large crowd were treated to a superb game of cricket as Hanging Heaton, after being put in to bat, set about their task with real purpose.
At 69 for four their innings was in some difficulty but then H Rashid (65) and Nick Bresnan (72) came together and added 115 for the fifth wicket. Mark Inwood (25) then added some valuable support and Ryan Senior (30 in 11 balls) accelerated the scoring rate at the end of the innings. Hanging Heaton were dismissed for a challenging 265 with seven balls of their allocation left – this latter factor eventually proving crucial.
Alex Gosney (3-40) and Luke Sykes (3-43) were the most successful Doncaster bowlers. The young Doncaster side then started well with Amitpaul Singh Kundra (60) leading the way. As 113 for two they looked to be in control but then Hanging Heaton fought back as Doncaster were reduced to 149 for seven. But Gosney (77) with solid support from Jonathan Redfern (29 not out) went on the attack. Gosney hit six sixes and five fours in his 45-ball innings as Doncaster scored 95 in the last 9.5 overs to win by one wicket with one ball to spare.
In Group 1 the pick of the ties to be played sees Blaydon (NE Premier) visit Scarborough (Yorkshire Premier) as both these clubs finished as runners-up in their respective ECB Premier Leagues last summer. Another intriguing tie in this Group sees South Northumberland (NE Prem), winners at Lord’s in 2006, entertaining Richmondshire from the North Yorks/South Durham League. Harrogate (Yorkshire Prem) will be hoping to progress against South Shields (NE Prem) but will meet stiff opposition on the day.
Group 2 throws up the interesting tie at East Bierley where the Bradford League club will hope to go one better than their colleagues from Hanging Heaton as they try to take the scalp of Driffield Town from the Yorkshire Premier League. If the match is anywhere near as exciting as the Hanging Heaton v Doncaster Town tie then it will be worth watching. Yorkshire Premier Champions, York CC, will host near neighbours Beverley Town, who were runners-up in the York & District Senior League; which will give further insight into the relative strengths of the major leagues in the White Rose County. West Indian Cavaliers (Notts Prem) have a long journey to Cleethorpes (Yorkshire Prem) and will hope to keep up their good record in this competition.
Sandiacre Town (Derbyshire), regulars in the National Stages of this competition, start their campaign in Group 3 with a home tie against Treeton from the South Yorkshire League. Caythorpe (Notts) also host South Yorkshire opponents in the shape of Whitley Hall.
Group 4 has a couple of ties that catch the eye with a local derby at Freckelton (Palace Shield) as they entertain St Annes (Northern Prem) whilst Ormskirk (Liverpool Comp) have a tough task as they travel to Kendal (Northern Prem). Northern (Liverpool Comp), who have featured in the last 16 on a number of occasions, will hope that their visit to Astley & Tyldesley of the Bolton Association gets this campaign off to a good start.
Group 5 throws up an intriguing clash between two sides who have targeted this competition in the past. Bamford Fieldhouse (Saddleworth) have a great record since entering this competition for the first time in 2006 but have a tough tie at the outset this time as they entertain Firwood Bootle (Liverpool Comp). Grappenhall (Cheshire County) return to the competition after a lengthy absence and will lock horns with Wallasey from the Liverpool Competition.
Netherfield (Northern Prem) will hope that their long journey to Colwyn Bay (Liverpool Comp) will not only be a great day at the North Wales seaside but will prove a successful one as they meet in Group 6. Three Bolton League sides, Farnworth, Kearsley and Heaton, have home ties in this Group against ECB Premier League opposition hoping to fly the flag for their League successfully.
Group 7 sees Wolverhampton (Birmingham) travel up the M6 to Alderley Edge (Cheshire County) with Nantwich (Cheshire) travelling in the opposite direction to West Bromwich Dartmouth (Birmingham) – which league will come out on top here? Another tie in this Group that is difficult to pick the winner from will be the one at Walmley (Birmingham) where the visitors are Dunstall (Derbyshire).
Group 8 has a clash of two ECB Premier League Champions as Ockbrook & Borrowash (Derbyshire) host Lutterworth (Leicestershire). Kibworth, Cockspur Cup winners in 2004 & 2008 as well as finishing Runners-up in 2007, start their new campaign at home to Dorridge (Birmingham). Birmingham Premier Champions Knowle & Dorridge travel to Oxford (Home Counties).
Swansea and Cardiff meet at St Helens in Group 9 whilst another all Welsh tie sees Sully Centurions host Ynysygerwn. Hampset from the Bristol Association take on the might of St Fagans in a tie that will test their resolve to the maximum.
Another clash of ECB Premier League Champions takes place in Group 10 as Sidmouth (Devon) host Taunton St Andrews (West of England) at their gorgeous seafront ground. In a strong Group, St Just the Cornish Champions travel to league rivals Callington.
The three strongest teams in Group 11 - Havant (Southern), Sunbury and Weybridge (both Surrey) - have away ties at Fair Oak, Finchampstead and Cove that should see all three teams progress to the next round. Bashley (Southern) should also see off the challenge of their visitors from Falkland (Home Counties).
In Group 12, Ealing (Middlesex, Champions) have a tough tie against Tring Park (Home Counties) whilst High Wycombe and Henley (both Home Counties) should progress after home ties against Harrow Town and Harrow respectively. Stanmore and Shepherd’s Bush should also progress in this Group.
Woodford Wells (Essex) and Saffron Walden (now East Anglian Premier) renew their rivalry in an eagerly awaited tie in Group 13. Potters Bar (Home Counties) have an intriguing tie with Southgate (Middlesex) but home advantage may well prove crucial in this case. Brondesbury, Finchley and Cambridge Granta should all progress to the next round.
Group 14 has a number of close ties in prospect. Bexley (Kent) host Gidea Park & Romford (Essex) and hope that Adam Ball (England U19) will be in their ranks for this match. Bromley (Kent) should progress comfortably as they visit Buckhurst Hill (Essex). Waltham (Essex Sunday) will be apprehensive about their visit to Hampstead (Middlesex) as they can be slow starters in this competition against top opposition. Brentwood host Hainault & Clayhall in an all-Essex Prem tie.
In Group 15 last year’s runners-up, Spencer (Surrey), travel to Horsham (Sussex) and may struggle to reproduce the form of last season. Teddington (Middlesex) will look to progress at the expense of near neighbours East Molesey (Surrey) although Richmond (Middlesex) may find Ashtead (Surrey) an all-together tougher proposition. Osterley (Middlesex Championship) host the 2008 runners-up from Malden Wanderers, whilst Roffey (Sussex) are hoping for a giant killing as they take on Wimbledon (Surrey).
Group 16 throws up another clash of the titans as Sutton (Surrey Champions) take on East Grinstead (Sussex runners-up). Hastings & St Leonards Priory (Sussex) have a tough tie at home to Hartley (Kent) – the Hastings WAGS would have preferred this tie to be away as they would have had an excuse to visit Bluewater for a shopping trip! Lordswood (Kent) have a challenging trip to Cheam (Surrey) whilst Beddington’s (Surrey) visit to Minster, Sheppey (Kent) will be an intriguing clash.