The Cricketer Cup
The Cricketer Cup, a knock-out competition for the old boys of 32 public schools, was started in 1967 as cricket's equivalent of the Halford Hewitt (golf) or the Arthur Dunn (football). It was the post-prandial idea of Henry Lewis (Shrewsbury) and Tony Winlaw (Harrow), who received the generous support of The Cricketer when it came to the launching of the event.
For the first two years 16 clubs took part - Bradfield Waifs, Charterhouse Friars, Eton Ramblers, Harrow Wanderers, Old Malvernians, Marlborough Blues, Radley Rangers, Repton Pilgrims, Rugby Meteors, Sherborne Pilgrims, Shrewsbury Saracens, Old Tonbridgians, Uppingham Rovers, Old Wellingtonians, Old Westminsters and Old Wykehamists.
In 1969 the entry was increased by invitation to 32 with the addition of Old Amplefordians, Old Blundellians, Old Brightonians, Old Cheltonians, Old Cliftonians, Downside Wanderers, Old Alleynians, Felsted Robins, Haileybury Hermits, Old Cholmelians (Highgate), Lancing Rovers, Old Merchant Taylors, Oundle Rovers, St Edward's Martyrs, Stowe Templars and Old Whitgiftians. In that year the finalists were two of the new entrants, Brighton and Stowe, with Brighton winning by 156 runs. Until 2007 those 32 sides remained unchanged, but in 2006 Old Blundellians withdrew, a victim of co-education and a change of emphasis to exam-dominated priorities. They were replaced by the Old Cranleighans, three time winners of the Brewers Cup, a second-string event for public schools.
Undoubtedly, the quality in the first decade of the tournament has rarely been matched since. Until the late 1970s many county and national players regularly turned out. In the first round in 1967 Peter May scored 113 not out for Charterhouse, seeing his side home along with Richard Gilliat, the Hampshire captain. In the final, Repton, captained by Donald Carr, beat Radley, led by Ted Dexter. When Winchester won in 1974, the Nawab of Pataudi was their leading batsman
Tonbridge, who failed to get past the first round in the competition's first three years, have been the dominant team. They have won on 12 occasions and been losing finalists another six times. They were also the first side to record 100 victories in the competition and the first to secure a hat-trick of wins. They have also fielded five England players, from Colin Cowdrey to Ed Smith. In June 2002, history was made at Brighton College when Clare Connor, the England women's captain, became the first old girl to appear in the competition, and she helped Old Brightonians to victory over local rivals Lancing Rovers, her eight overs costing only 14 runs.
The pressure on first-class cricketers and the reduction in numbers of public schoolboys playing at the highest level has meant that the competition has reverted to a more low-key event although the standards in the later rounds are high.
The format of the event was 55-overs a side until 2005 when it was reduced to 50 overs.
From 1967 to 1983 the final was played in front of good crowds at Burton Court, Chelsea and from 1984 to 1994 at Vincent Square in Westminster. Until 2003, the Bank of England ground at Roehampton was the venue, and after a one-year stop at Wormsley (following the merger of The Cricketer and Wisden Cricket Monthly), the latest home for the final is Old Deer Park, the home of Richmond CC.
Martin Williamson is managing editor of Cricinfo