100 years of League Cricket
While friendly cricket had been popular since the 1860s, an organised competition appears to have first been played in the County in 1890, when the Airey Cup was established. This was followed by the Telegraph Cup, which had its first season in 1901. However any player who held a winner’s medal from either competition was then barred from taking part in future years. As the numbers of successful, but then ineligible, players grew, it was thought that the formation of a league would serve both to keep them active in competitive cricket and at the same time significantly raise the standard of cricket in the County. In September 1904 a letter appeared in the Oxford Times from Mr. James R. Benson making such a proposal, which was followed up by an article by Mr. J.R.F. Turner which endorsed the concept. A meeting was then held at the Three Cups Hotel in Queen Street on 14th. October, for Clubs to consider the inauguration of a League.A committee was formed with James Benson as its Secretary. He was later formally elected the League’s first President, with a Mr. Griffiths as its Chairman.
Wolvercote celebrate in the Steve Dixon Cup final
By January 1905 the following ten Clubs had agreed to compete: Clarendon Press, College Servants, Cowley, Cowley St. John, North Oxford, South Oxford, Corporation, Headington United, Oxford City and Victoria. Cowley finished up as the first winners. The League proved very popular and second division was added in 1910.
Deddington batsman Gerry Duncan cracks a fine square cut
The First World War put an end to cricketing activity for five summers and when competitions resumed in 1919 a new constitution was drawn up, and the Oxfordshire Cricket Association as we know it today was founded. In 1964 it expanded from two to four divisions; and by 1978 the number had risen to six, and then to twelve in 1992.
It also retained responsibility for organising the Airey and Telegraph Cups, as well as the George Coppock Cup (inaugurated 1960). To these the Osberton Radiators Cup for 2nd. XI teams and the Steve Dixon Memorial Cup have been added to accommodate the increase in membership over the years. The Cups for the ten League Divisions and the five Knock Out competitions make a fine sight at the annual presentation dinner. Each represents the full history of its competition with the winning team and players’ names engraved on the base.
Despite a century of past success the Association is firmly rooted in the present to deliver the current and future needs of its member Clubs, using the promotion of competitive senior cricket to assist the development of their playing standards and their community profiles. An hundred years is a significant and happy milestone, of which all concerned over the years should be proud; but we hope the best is yet to come!
Photographs © Steve Wheeler