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The countdown begins

Posted in NatWest CricketForce 2010

February 4, tea room, Harrow St.Mary’s Cricket Club - the minutes read 'The meeting closed at 9.30pm'.

Well that’s a first for any committee meeting held at HSM CC - only two hours! And considering it was one of the most important ones in our club history it’s even more amazing.

The meeting continues on an unofficial basis for another half an hour over a beer or two when someone asks: "Who is up for a bite to eat? Are you going to join us Dave?”

Dave Leighton, our ECB inspiration man, replies: “Are you serious?”

Just as we think he can’t manage a late night curry he adds: “I’ve just driven down from Manchester, I’m starving!"

So they disappear into the night with Les shouting after them: “Sign the restaurant up for NatWest CricketForce!”

So, that leaves seven weeks and 12 hours ‘til kick-off. That’s alright then. Yikes!

Harrow St Mary's Cricket Club was founded in 1881 as the cricket team of the landmark St Mary's Church on the summit of Harrow-on-the-Hill and played for the first few years on the lower slopes of the hill.

In 1885 the club moved down the hill to a piece of land now known as Harrow Recreation Ground. Public opinion at that time thought that with the spread of the population from London there would be a need for housing, and so it was important to safeguard the area as a green refuge for future generations.

It was hoped that 'revolutionists, drunkards, poachers and the like' would 'gain advantage from games and sports available'. (Not much change there then!) That is where HSM CC existed for the next 125 years.

Those years saw many changes in society reflected in those who played the sport - two world wars which saw members lost, the loss of the protection of the sanctity of Sundays (a deed in the ground’s Trust forbad Sunday play until 1968), the introduction of league cricket and Twenty20 games and the formal setting up of a colts' section.

Fast forward to the new millennium and we began to discover that we were donating hours and hours of coaching time to our colts only to see our better players go off to local clubs who had their own private ground and facilities we could only dream of. So began a five year plan to find a new ground. A decision not taken lightly as we had been in the 'Rec' for so many years.

'Youngsters claim trophy' roared the headline in the Harrow Observer on August 7 2008. Our under-10 squad had won the Gubby Allen Trophy, played on the Nursery Ground at the hallowed Lord’s. An historic event for our club, but something was going to take place that would change the history of our club forever.

David Holland, then the Middlesex Development Secretary, aware that we were looking for a new ground, told us that Millhillians Sports Ground was looking for a cricket club to use their facilities as their team had moved to Totteridge.

Then began a year of negotiations, site visits, meetings and e-mails (just the one or two). We were still tied to the site in the Rec and the overseeing HSM Sports Club so our younger colts and Third XI continued to play there while in May our First and Second XIs moved to MH.

Although our new ground is new to us, it has been in existence since 1928 and other than the cricket square, there is nothing else for cricket - no nets or artificial wicket (and we even had those in the park). We’ve got the ground. Now we need to give it a bit of love and care and that takes money (which we don’t have).

We had a meeting with the Middlesex Cricket Board and learnt that ECB were looking for a big project to publicise and get involved with in Middlesex.

As a result we are kicking off Natwest CricketForce 2010 on Friday March 26.

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