COMPETITIVE recreational cricket returned on Saturday after a long, enforced lay off due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

The season started with clubs recognising the enormous efforts and sacrifices made by our NHS staff and key workers with a minutes applause followed by taking the knee to show support for Black Lives Matter.

Due to the loss of over half of the season the structures of both the Birmingham & District League and Worcestershire County League have changed to a number of regional group-based competitions.

In Birmingham League Group Four, Kidderminster lost by 67 runs to Barnt Green, Bromsgrove were beaten by Barnards Green by 51 runs andHalesowen defeated Omberley by three wickets.  

The Worcestershire League cup competition sees the 24 teams who made up the Premier Division and Division One divided in to four regional groups of six. 

In Group A Old Hill, Oldswinford and Stourbridge Social and Lye for whom Waqas Ahmed posted a second innings 90 not out all started the season positively with wins in the new 80 over (40 overs a side) win/lose format.

In Cup Group B Chris Ridings compiled a fine 91 in the first innings to help Pershore pass the three hundred mark in their win at Feckenham, whilst Chaddesley Corbett and Astwood Bank also started the season with comfortable wins.

Brockhampton all-rounder Nick Powell took 4-15 in the first innings to dismiss visitors Colwall at the Parks which ultimately helped seal a tight two wicket win, whilst Old Elizabethans and Worcester Nomads also started with wins in Cup Group C.

M Harris (85*) laid the foundations for Bewdley who beat Hagley by 12 runs in Cup Group D. Droitwich Spa made the trip to Cookley and came away with a 20 run win and Stourport-on-Severn were the other team that started positively in the group as they chased down Ombersley 2nd XI's first innings total for the loss of six wickets.

The Trophy Competition is structured the same way as the Cup with four regional groups of six teams made up of the original teams who would have contested Division Two and Division Three.

In Group A Troy Lee (75) helped Netherton post a first innings total that proved too many for visiting Enville to chase, Tom Genders (72) guided Old Hill 2nd XI to a comfortable six wicket win at home to Himley 2nd XI and Hassan Akram (4-22) ensured Halesowen 2nd XI got off to a winning start against Harborne 3rd XI at Seth Somers Park

Richard Pretty scored an excellent first innings century (103) and Sean Jenkins followed with 4-22 to help Himbleton seal victory against Barnt Green 2nd XI in Trophy Group B. Greg Chinn (100) also started with a century for Bromsgrove 2nd XI but a fine undefeated (99*) in the second innings from Adam Warbrick stole the show for Astwood Bank 2nd XI and in the other match Redditch 2nd XI fought back to share the spoils in what must have been a pulsating game at Avoncroft largely thanks to Daniel Protherough's second innings haul of (5-27) which included the key wicket of home team opener Dan Elliot (106) who’s dismissal seemed to trigger a batting collapse as they lost the last eight wickets for just thirty-three runs to finish tied on 210 when it seemed victory was well within reach.

In Trophy Group C there were wins for Bredon who beat Kempsey and Barnards Green 2nd XI who defeated Brockhampton 2nd XI by forty one runs despite a fine second innings (83) from Max Foster. The other match in the group saw local rivals Bartestree & Lugwardine and Eastnor share the spoils as both were dismissed for 110 in a low scoring tied match dominated by the bowlers.

Andrew Kimberlin (140) and Phil Pountney (4-5) ensured Kidderminster started with a bang against Rushwick at Chester Road in Trophy Group D. Old Vigornians won the battle of Worcester against Old Elizabethans 2nd XI by a comfortable margin thanks to a second innings half century from Henry Armstrong (69) and Daniel Johnson cracked a quickfire first innings (77) to help Martley post a first innings that proved enough to overcome Worcester 2nd XI who fell short by 19 runs.

The Vase Competition is the title that Division Four and Five sides are chasing this season as the 24 teams that originally made up the two Divisions have again been split into four regional groups of six teams.

In Vase Group A Mohammed Husnain (75) steered Lye 2nd to a three wicket victory against Halesowen 3rd XI, Jawad Nazir (67) top scored for Netherton 2nd XI as they amassed a big first innings total which proved too many for Harborne 4th XI to chase down and Romsley & Hunnington cruised to an eight wicket victory at home to Coombs Wood 2nd XI.

Alvechurch & Hopwood got off to winning ways by beating Bromsgrove 3rd XI by two wickets at the Hedges Ground in Vase Group B. Other winners in the Group were Droitwich Spa 2nd XI who beat Astwood Bank 3rd XI by eight wickets at St. Peters Field and Five Ways Old Edwardians for whom Jonathan Bassett took (4-21) in the first innings and Usmaan Mahmood (75) scored a second innings half century to secure victory by seven wickets against Hagley 2nd XI at Hagley Park.

In Vase Group C Worcester Nomads 2nd XI made a winning start on the road against Colwall 2nd XI at Stowe Lane, West Malvern made the short trip to Hanley Castle & Upton and walked away with a three wicket win despite (75) from Alexander Woods in the first innings for the home side and Christopher Holtom took (4-21) in the first innings for Pershore which helped restrict visitors Malvern to a total that the home team passed for the loss of four wickets.

Mohammed Jevaad Nazir (94), Hassam Munir (4-22) and Muhammad Aqib (4-25) ensured Stourbridge 2nd XI started their Vase Group D campaign off with a twenty run win against Chaddesley Corbett 2nd XI at Longmore despite the best efforts of Amar Sodha (97) who fell just three runs short of a deserved century for the home side in the second innings. Jamie Greenwood (4-22) returned excellent first innings figures for Claverley in their seven wicket win against Bewdley 2nd XI and Stourport-on-Severn 2nd XI began their campaign with a nineteen run win against Alveley.

All teams in their associated Competition Groups will play each other twice over the shortened season, ten matches per team. All Group matches finish on Saturday 19th September with the four group winners in each Competition then progressing to a semi-final stage with the winners progressing to the final of their associated Competition.

Stuart Lampitt

The original twenty-four teams who made up Divisions Six and Seven will be playing for the Regional Shield.

In Group A Nick Kates (93) helped Belbroughton 2nd XI post a first innings target that proved too many for Pedmore 2nd XI to chase despite a valiant (95) from David Meehan, Ian Smith (62*) guided Kidderminster 3rd XI to victory against visiting Himley 3rd XI at Chester Road and Oldswinford & Stourbridge Social 2nd XI beat Stourbridge 3rd XI by twenty runs at the Green Field.

Sam Robinson (73*) led Birlingham 1st XI to a convincing nine wicket win against Harvington in Shield Group B. Cutnall Green also started with a win as they chased down Bromsgrove’s first inning total which was largely inspired by Mark Bilborough (90) to win by four wickets and Barnt Green 3rd XI beat Feckenham 2nd XI by ten wickets to get off to a flying start

In Group C Edd Oliver (71*) and Max Rowley (5-31) helped Bromyard 2nd XI beat local rivals Bartestree & Lugwardine 2nd XI by twenty runs , Dave Francis (50) and a late flurry helped Rushwick 2nd XI over the line against Old Vigornians 2nd XI, however performance of the day in the Group went to Tim Walsh (137) who ensured Burghill Tillington and Weobley 2nd XI started with a convincing win against Bredon 2nd XI for who Josh Arnett scored (76).

Umar Ijaz (5-15) bamboozled Stourport-on-Severn 3rd XI in the second innings to help Claverley 2nd XI start positively in Group D, Enville 2nd XI produced an excellent team effort to beat comprehensively and finally the summary scorecards from the match between Cleobury Mortimer 1st XI and Highley 1st XI are yet to be reported.

The Regional Plate Competition features the twenty-four teams who were originally positioned in Divisions 8 & 9.

In Plate Group A Sam Preece (115) and Jonathan Preece (4-17) helped Halesowen 4th XI get the season off to a winning start as they overcame Romsley & Hunnington 2nd XI by a comfortable margin. Himley 4th XI Captain Akil Kapasii (93) led from the front by guiding his team to a seven wicket win against Alveley 2nd XI and the match between Old Halesonians and Harborne was abandoned due to travellers on the ground.

David Apperley (173) smashed the joint highest individual score of the day for Avoncroft 2nd XI in their victory over Alvechurch & Hopwood 2nd XI in Plate Group B. Himbleton 2nd XI also got off to a winning start by compiling an excellent first innings total that proved too many for Astwood Bank 4th XI to chase and Cookhill 1st XI completed the days win treble by dismissing Five Ways Old Edwardians 2nd XI twenty five runs short of their first inning total.

In Plate Group C the three winning teams were Kempsey 2nd XI who beat Hanley Castle & Upton 2nd XI by six wickets at Plovers Rise despite a valiant (61) from James Webber in the first innings, Old Elizabethans 3rd XI who beat Worcester 3rd XI by 3 wickets in a tight game at Neel Park and West Malvern 2nd XI for whom Club Captain Kevin Gilbert (117*) rolled back the years to score an excellent undefeated first innings century which led to a convincing win against Evesham 1st XI.

In Plate Group D Tenbury Wells 1st XI started with a win against Droitwich Spa 3rd XI at Penlu. Chris Harler (63) scored a first innings half century and Dan Millman (5-17) and Robert Bond (4-24) followed up in the second innings to ensure Stone 1st XI kept up with the pace as they defeated Chaddesley Corbett 3rd XI by a comfortable margin and Ombersley 3rd XI chased down Martley 2nd XIs first innings total thanks to an undefeated half century from Cameron Taylor (50*) to complete the trio of winners.

The Regional Salver is the prize that teams in the original Division 10 & 11 are now playing for. This competition sees three groups of 6 teams playing each other once over a five game season with the winners of the groups and the best runner up progressing to the semi-final stage with the winners contesting the final.

In Regional Salver Group A, Akram Farook (6-10) ensured Harborne 6th XI got off to a winning start by beating visitors Enville 3rd XI by thirty one runs, Netherton 3rd XI scored a huge first innings total that secured victory against Coombs Wood 3rd XI and Stourbridge 4th XI beat Oldswinford * Stourbridge Social by seven wickets to get their campaign off to a winning start.

In Salver Group B Kit Thornton (62*) guided newcomers Buffalo Barnstormers to a comprehensive nine wicket win against Redditch Entaco 4th XI, Bewdley 3rd XI beat local rivals Stourport-on-Severn convincingly and Droitwich Spa 4th XI beat Belbroughton 3rd XI by nine wickets to post their first win of the season.

Robert Wilson (173) ensured Barnards Green 3rd XI got off to a winning start by steering his team to an unassailable first innings total against Malvern 2nd XI in Salver Group C. Sam Eastwood (4-36) ensured newcomers Bosbury 1st started with a win as they beat Worcester 4th XI by eight wickets at Norton Barracks and finally the match between Bromyard 3rd XI and Old Elizabethans 4th XI is yet to be reported.

The Division 12 Summer Division features two Groups of six teams. Each team will play each other once in their respective groups with the two group winners progressing to contest the Final.

In Summer Division Group A there were wins for Halesowen 5th XI who beat Himley 5th XI by 20 runs despite a fine effort from Joe Wright (Under 12) who would have made his parents proud by scoring his maiden senior half century on his senior debut for the club. Newcomers Cookhill 2nd XI started with a victory against Cookley 3rd XI for whom Russell Rhodes scored (101) and T Smith (79) helped Pedmore 3rd XI beat newcomers Barnt Green 4th XI in a tight game at Blakedown.

Sam Jones (160*) was the star in Summer Division Group B as his excellent undefeated century helped Worcester Nomads 3rd XI gain victory against Pershore 4th XI. Mark Notley (107*) and Joe Tagg (105) led Bredon 3rd XI to a comfortable season opening win against Tenbury Wells 2nd XI and Harry Thompson (4-4) helped Rushwick 3rd XI seal their first victory of the season on the road against Eastnor 2nd XI.

All in all an excellent all-round start to the season saw seventy four matches contested in safely controlled and well sanitised environments. The thanks of the WCL goes to all of its member clubs for the efforts made.