The Southern Premier League has announced the format of its 37-team end-season 40-over League Cup competition, which will begin in earnest next Saturday, July 18.
The League Cup got the go ahead when the government gave the all-clear for recreational grass roots cricket to resume following its earlier suspension due to the on-going Covid-19 pandemic crisis.
It has been introduced to provide the county’s leading club sides with competitive cricket during the second half of the season. It will run for a period of nine weeks until September 12, with four divisions laid out on an east/west geographical basis.
Teams from the Premier Division and SPL1 have been split into east and west divisions, and similarly those from Divisions 2 and 3.
All the SPL clubs have entered bar Hook & Newnham Basics (two teams) and Ventnor. It means three of the four divisions will play with nine teams.
Hook & Newnham Basics’ Director of Cricket Vince Gardner explained: “Our thinking (not to participate) following a detailed player survey: after all it’s all about the players and their feelings must come first.
“In short, Hook decided to arrange an inter-club competition (The Keith Lovelock/Kevin Poulter Trophy) as we felt it gave us best use of facilities, maximised player time, minimised travel, negate C-19 risk by allowing us to control our own facility and distancing and, most important in such a tricky time, allowed us to have fun amongst friends and put a few pounds over our own bar !
“In the survey we offered the SPL fixture option (which in fairness we knew very little about, so just assumed we would play other local SPL clubs) no matches at all or the Inter-Club option.
“85 per cent of the players voted for Inter-Club.”
“We are mindful we may be seen to be outliers, but I wonder how many clubs did the player survey?”
Ventnor will play matches on the Isle of Wight, logistical and financial considerations dictating the probable reason for their non-participation.
The divisional make-up throws up some tasty derbies, with Havant and Portsmouth set to lock horns and Sarisbury Athletic testing themselves against the likes of the Hampshire Academy, who play alongside them in Premier/Division 1 East.
New Forest trio Bashley (Rydal), Lymington & New Milton are paired up in Premier/Division 1 West, while arch Winchester rivals Sparsholt and St Cross Symondians are in the same group.
League Cup format –
Premier/Division 1 East (nine teams)
Alton, Basingstoke & North Hants, Burridge, Hampshire Academy, Havant, Portsmouth, Rowledge, Sarisbury Athletic, St Cross Symondians II.
Premier/Division 1 West (ten teams)
Andover, Bashley (Rydal), Bournemouth, Calmore Sports, Lymington, New Milton, South Wilts, Sparsholt, St Cross Symondians, Totton & Eling.
Division 2/3 East (nine teams)
Basingstoke & North Hants II, Gosport Borough, Hambledon, Hartley Wintney, Liphook & Ripsley, Portsmouth & Southsea, Purbrook, Tichborne Park, Waterlooville.
Division 2/3 West (nine teams)
Bashley (Rydal) II, Fair Oak, Fawley, Hythe & Dibden, Langley Manor, Old Tauntonians & Romsey, Paultons, Trojans, South Wilts II.