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The end of an era for Minor Counties cricket
Friday 1st March 2019

The Liverpool Competition has had many players involved in Minor Counties cricket over the years, mainly with Cheshire, but 2020 will mark the end of an era as the Minor Counties are to change their name after 124 years of competitive cricket spanning three centuries.

From 2020, the rejigged competition's many changes will include becoming the National Counties Cricket Association.

There will be slightly less three day cricket, but there will be automatic promotion and relegation within the current Western and Eastern Divisions.

The ten team divisions will split to two groups of five in a series of changes to the county game at its second tier.

It will also mean a drop in three day matches from six to four per season, while offering an increase in Twenty20 games.

"It will make it far more competitive," said Minor Counties Cricket Association chairman, Nick Archer. "There'll be no hiding place. We'll have the best sides playing the best sides.

"In the past, there have been occasions when, due to the way the fixtures are set up, with only six games to be played in a ten team league, you can finish top of the league maybe not having played the three best other sides. Now, with more availability of players too, due to there being fewer games, the best team will win it."

There are also plans - still being finalised - to bring back games against first class sides.

If approved, it would mean a chance for every National Counties side to play against first class opposition for the first time since Minor Counties sides were excluded from English cricket's premier one day competition in 2006.

The main changes

Eastern Division teams

Western Division teams

The changes were also officially approved at a meeting in London on 14th January with the England and Wales Cricket Board, who have now also agreed to the name change, which still needs to be officially rubber stamped at the Minor Counties' next meeting.

Discussions between the Minor Counties Cricket Association and the ECB have been taking place for more than a year about the future structure and funding of Minor Counties cricket - and the changes first proposed by a review group led by former Staffordshire opening batsman Archer were initially approved at a meeting at Edgbaston on 31st October.

"We'd had a good steer that this would all be approved," said Archer. "But, until you see it all agreed, it's not certain, so there is a feeling of relief. We knew the game had to change. As to the name change, it has long been felt that Minor Counties seemed a pejorative term. And we should now be called from 2020, the National Counties Cricket Association. Other names were suggested but made us sound a second rate organisation and this has now been approved by the ECB."

Minor Counties Championship history

Minor Counties in the cups

Minor Counties sides first played first class sides in competitive one day cricket in the 1964 Gillette Cup, when the top five Minor Counties sides in 1963 were placed in the first round draw.

The first upset was in 1973 when Durham, 19 years before they achieved first class status, became the first Minor Counties side to defeat a first class county in the competition, beating Yorkshire by six wickets at Harrogate.

When the Natwest Trophy began in 1983, the number of Minor Counties sides involved increased to 13, in an expanded first round that also included Ireland and Scotland.

Perhaps the biggest scalp came a year later when Shropshire defeated Yorkshire by 37 runs after Shrewsbury Town groundsman Brian Perry claimed the key wicket - a return catch from the great Geoffrey Boycott.

In 2001, Herefordshire's narrow three wicket win over Middlesex, led by Angus Fraser and containing future England captain Andrew Strauss, was perhaps the most dramatic of the 15 victories by Minor Counties sides against first class teams.

Minor Counties involvement in the competition ended after the 2005 season when the cup reverted to a league format for the 18 first class counties, Ireland and Scotland.

When the Benson & Hedges Cup began in 1972, for the first four years, there were two combined Minor Counties North and Minor Counties South sides.

From 1976 to 1979, these changed to Minor Counties East and Minor Counties West.

From 1980 until 1998, the Minor Counties were then cut to just one combined team - during which time they recorded six wins over first class sides.