Don Topley: Playing veterans’ cricket is the perfect way to stay involved with our great sport

Ian Pont has played over 50's cricket for Essex

Ian Pont has played over 50's cricket for Essex - Credit: Su Anderson

Don Topley discusses the many benefits of veterans’ cricket in his latest column.

Veterans’ sport is becoming an increasingly popular pastime and I fondly remember playing over 35s football and vets’ rugby travelling all around East Anglia.

The opportunity to catch up with friends and foes from over the years is a great attraction whilst playing a beloved sport and trying to remain healthier within our busy lives.

In our national summer sport of cricket there are a variety of senior age-groups that make up the cricket season.

Over 50s, over 60s and over 70s cricket is played at representative level in both Suffolk and Norfolk and their adjacent counties.

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Whilst April is normally too cold and wet, the grey-haired fraternity wake up from their hibernation to warm up and venture out in May and frequently play weekly matches for the rest of the summer.

Andy Gregory, Norfolk’s over 50s captain (www.norfolk50ccc.co.uk) said: “Whilst we do not possess the ‘fast and nasties’ of old, nor the quality slip fielders or even the agile fielders, we all still enjoy a rather different game of cricket.

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“Rings of fielders on both sides require the elder batsmen to hit over the top, often to break the shackles – rarely is there a three run.”

Suffolk’s ECB over 50s captain, Arthur Wormington added: “The ECB Competition is far the stronger of the two formal over 50s competitions.

“There are seven group games where the top three in the group will go on into the last 16 ECB national finals – it really is extremely competitive at this level.”

Suffolk ECB over 50s side bucks the trend as a majority of Wormington’s side still play Division 1 club cricket.

When I first started in adult cricket I played village cricket at Great Ellingham (Norfolk), Stutton (Suffolk) and Carrow (Norfolk).

Each of those village/club sides possessed wily old senior players who hugely assisted the development of many a young cricketer – me included.

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The negative side of this today is that not many of these representative over 50s, 60s and 70s senior cricketers play club cricket at weekends - this will not assist the ECB participation numbers at weekends, which are decidedly down.

And much of the significant wisdom and experience in cricket of these over 50s players will be missing in the young cricketers of today.

Pat Patel, captain of the Two Counties League over 50s said: “We have around 30 players on our over 50s database, of which only a few play cricket at weekends today.

“So, this is a great way of remaining in the great game, playing, and meeting up with many cricketing friends built up over 30 years playing club cricket in the area.”

Patel, 57, added: “Some want to play recreational and some more serious representative cricket - when you combine the over 50s, 60s and 70s then we have about 60 members keen to play.”

Patel’s East Anglian Two Counties XI are off on tour to Barbados for a ten-day over 50s cricket festival in October.

This will involve between 6/8 sides from the UK and the Caribbean.

The West Indian opening batsman, Gordon Greenidge, is expected to play, whilst the likes of Charlie Griffith, Cammie Smith, Joel Garner, Desmond Haynes, Tino Best and Sir Garry Sobers hopefully will be met during a five-match cricket tour, combined with a Caribbean holiday.

Patel confirmed: “We are still a few places short in our own tour squad, so should anyone wish to join us then you will be made most welcome.”

Essex over 50s made it through to the ECB Finals last year only to be surprisingly defeated in the final by Leicestershire.

A few old pros from yesteryear are occasionally seen on the park – in the successful Essex side last year were former Essex and Notts all-rounder Ian Pont, former Essex, Leicestershire and Somerset batsman, Neil Burns, and former Hampshire player, Mel Hussain, who also represented England Over 50s last winter in South Africa.

- For more information on the Smile Group Travel Over 50s Barbados Cricket Festival or Senior Cricket in Argentina and Kenya contact Don Topley, on 07920 164126 or Pat Patel, on 07740 698017.

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