28th December 2014
A look back at New Forest cricket in 1979
1979 was a seminal moment in time for Britain - after crippling strikes Margaret Thatcher swept to power transforming the country over the following decade for good and for bad. Sport too was changing rapidly - Trevor Francis became the first £1m footballer when he signed for Nottingham Forest .
In cricket, England hosted the ICC World Cup and got off to a great start beating Canada, Pakistan and old enemy Australia in the group stages. In a close semi-final half centuries from Gooch and Brierley set up a final at Lords versus the West Indies. The West Indies batted first and were in trouble at 99-4 before a sensational 138 from 157 balls from a certain Viv Richards set a huge score of 296-9. England opened with Brearley (64 from 130 balls) and Geoff Boycott (57 from 105 balls) scoring very slowly playing as if the match were a five-day Test!! By the time both batsmen were out, the required run rate had risen too high and the rest as they say is history as England were bowled out for 194.
Down in the New Forest, however, the winds of change were also blowing for the New Forest Cricket League. Although, the Southern League, established in 1969, had no members from the New Forest area on its formation, by 1979 more ambitious local clubs (Lymington, Hythe & Dibden and New Milton) had joined their ranks. 1973 had also seen another important development in the formation of the Hampshire Cricket League. Although the HCL was well supported on formation with 64 teams, there was a geographical bias towards the east of the County with relatively little initial interest from Forest teams. To the west of the Forest, the Bournemouth Cricket remained strong with six divisions with Forest representation from Burley, Rydal (Bashley) and Pennington. The writing was perhaps on the wall for the Bournemouth League even as early as 1979, firstly due to its format as there was a relatively high frequency of draws - for example Witchampton in Division 1 played 18 games, 10 of which were draws. Secondly the Bournemouth League contained a high number of "works" teams which reduced greatly in number during the 80s and 90s.
Back in the New Forest League, pioneering Chairman Vic Loveless (some things never change!) had overseen a move from friendly to competitive cricket and the New Forest League consisted of two divisions as follows with the final tables for the 1978 season:
In addition to the two divisions that finished the 1978 season, the following season saw the introduction of a third division made up as follows:
Lyndhurst 2nd XI (the 1st XI was presumably in the HCL), Blackfield, Fordingbridge, New Milton 3rd XI, Romsey 2nd XI, Burley 2nd XI, Fawley and O.S.O. 2nd XI (was this Wiltshire club the forerunner of Sarisbury Athletic?)
As can be seen, the list of competing clubs is a mixture of the well-known, recently folded, merged and obscure.
In Division 1, Beaulieu, Fawley, Bramshaw, Ellingham, Hordle, Pylewell Brockenhurst and Broughton (RD4 South Central) are still going strong as league clubs. North Baddersley merged with Ampfield in 2013. Pennington continue to play friendly cricket - often against Sway with many Sway players turning out for them over the years.
In Division 2 Nomansland, Cadnam, Ringwood, Hyde & Paultons are still going strong. Ashurst after losing their ground played friendly cricket for many years but happily returned to competitive cricket as "Lyndhurst & Ashurst" in 2013. Brockenhurst College has sadly long since stopped playing competitive cricket, albeit college pupils are well catered for by nearby clubs. Bartley no longer plays competitive cricket but their delightful ground is still used by other clubs - long may this continue HCL! The author is unsure of what happened to Ashley CC and can only surmise that at some point they merged into New Milton - the secretary of Ashley was a "J Legge" and there are several "Legges" that have played for New Milton in more recent years.
In Division 3, Fordingbridge rather surprisingly for a reasonably sized town stopped playing cricket, albeit there are exciting plans to bring cricket back. Blackfield are sadly no more but their ground lives on being used by Hythe & Dibden.
So what else did the 1979 New Forest League Directory reveal? One interesting snippet was a list of the worst recording batting flops in recorded New Forest cricket history:
The New Forest Cricket Association formed a colts section in 1978 which continues with great success to this day.
Back in 1979, local colts cricket consisted of an U16s league of 16 clubs and and an U14s league of just 4 clubs. And of course there were no girls!
Pioneering clubs putting out colts teams back in 1979 were:
It is probably no surprise that many of the clubs on the list above are today some of the strongest clubs in Hampshire.
One final thought........surely an national honour Vic Loveless is long overdue. Someone should nominate him for an MBE !
PS corrections & additions to the above happily accepted!! firstname.lastname@example.org