Two Counties veterans’ teams reach major landmark

TWO members of the Two Counties Over-50s side who took part in the first-ever representative fixture 25 years ago were present to see the 500th match played by the veterans on Tuesday.

Maldon’s Geoff Newman, who was the captain, and Mistley’s Ken Sparkes, who celebrates his 83rd birthday next month, were among those at Frinton for the Over-50s match against Norfolk Over-50s which ended in a 23-run defeat.

Newman, who is now 79, skippered the side for the first 10 years, and has been involved ever since as team manager as veterans’ cricket has expanded to cater for over-60s and even over-70s matches.

He said: “When we started all those years ago it never occurred to me that veterans’ representative cricket would grow as it has done.

“We played one game in the first year, three in the second and have gradually built it up from there.


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“In that day and age people were conscious of the fact they were over-50, and also many cricketers packed up once they got past forty.

“But I now have 140 names on my contact list, which includes 93 active players.”

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Newman paid tribute to the late Keith Croton, who was chairman of the Two Counties, for getting the over-50s team off the ground, and the support received from president Ron Noyce and his wife Hazel before both passed away.

“Keith was manager for ten years whilst I was captain. He was one of the nicest men I have ever met, and he was so pleased when the idea came to fruition.”

Newman is one of just five over-50s captains spanning the 25 years – the late John Ellis taking over for a year before John McNally skippered the side for two or three seasons. Phil Cox then led the side for a decade before handing over to current captain Pat Patel.

Cox, who played in Tuesday’s match, said: “The success of the side is all down to Geoff. I just did what I had to do on the pitch – Geoff organised everything so well I was left with nothing else to do!”

Newman said that Clacton stalwart John Stuck had played the most matches, while Maldon’s Martin Southwell, Brightlingsea’s Brian Turley and Barry Ball of Abberton were among the leading appearance-makers during the last quarter-of-a-century, which had seen the competition change its name six teams.

Originally known as the Bulldog Two Counties Championship, the competition has since been sponsored by Anglo, APS, Jaygate Homes and Hargreaves, whose name changed to Marshall Hatchick in 2002.

Newman thanked the clubs – Abberton, Elmstead, Frinton, Halstead, Ipswich, Long Melford and Mistley – who have supported the veterans by regularly hosting matches as well as the groundsmen and tea ladies.

“I have always tried to build up the social side, and because of that clubs enjoy having us. We annually play the Ernie Nicholls Memorial match at Witham and for the John Ellis Memorial Trophy at Maldon as well as a past and present match in memory of Jack Curtis at Ipswich and East Suffolk.

“We have played against the Australian Over-60s side and visiting teams from Hertfordshire, London, Norfolk, Scotland, Surrey and Worcestershire.”

After touring Yorkshire at the start of July, the 25th anniversary matches – two over-50s fixtures against Suffolk Over-50s and Essex Police Vets – take place at Clay Hall, home of Ipswich CC, on Wednesday, August 22.

THE first representative match played by the Two Counties Over-50s was held on June 3, 1987 against Suffolk Over-50s at Sudbury CC and resulted in a draw.

Suffolk scored 142 for seven and the Two Counties responded with 104 for eight.

The side to take the field in that first fixture 25 year ago was: Geoff Newman (capt), Tony Marchi, John Cloake (all Maldon), Giles Langton (Hadleigh), Ken Sparkes (Mistley), John McNally (Achilles), John Hurry (Felixstowe), Malclom Tye (Harwich & Dovercourt), Jim Carnegie (Sudbury) plus two other players.

It is the only match of the 500 played for which no scorecard exists, and anyone who knows the identity of the two missing players is asked to contact Geoff Newman on 07760 235273.

In Tuesday’s 500th match at Frinton the Two Counties conceded 46 runs in the final five overs as Norfolk Over-50s posted 191 for five in their 45 overs.

The Two Counties were struggling at 66 for five until a stand of 51 between skipper Pat Patel, who batted very well in his innings of 41, and Steve Isaac gave their reply some respectability.

Norfolk Over-50s 191 for 5 (R Yates 53no, R Eagleton 51, C Hills 3 for 45). Two Counties Over-50s 168 (P Patel 41, J Wiseman 32, S Isaac 29, T Beedon 3 for 27, R Eagleton 2 for 30, C Whurr 2 for 40). Norfolk Over-50s won by 23 runs.

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