11:30AM, Friday 17 July 2020
Teams in Divisions 1 and 2 of the Home Counties Premier Cricket League will merge and compete for the same trophy this summer, with the competition set to get underway from Saturday.
The clubs have been taken out of their respective divisions and split into two pools based on geographical location, ensuring more derby matches and less travelling for away teams.
The top two sides from each group will go through to the semi-finals and, at the end of it all, the best and most consistent team will lift the trophy.
Hoping, but not necessarily expecting, to be that side is Burnham Cricket Club.
The team has struggled for form and consistency in recent seasons and has rarely challenged for promotion or the title in Division 2. It’s been a period of transition for the club with new players being blooded and more established figures moving on to pastures new.
In their side of the draw are local rivals Slough and Datchet, High Wycombe – who they host on Saturday – Tring, Harefield, Wokingham and Finchampstead. Although he admits it will be a difficult feat, club chairman Shaid Nadeem says it would be wrong to completely count them out.
“It’s a real tough start for us,” said Nadeem. “The top two sides in each pool qualify for the semi-final and then there’s a final. At least there’s something to play for, rather than all of the matches being friendlies.
“They’ve also made it into one league as well. We’ve been split into groups based on the amount of travelling. It’s a bit of a mixture but there will be a cup lifted at the end of it.
“There are some really tough games for us. To be honest with you I don’t know how we’ll do.
“We’ll give it a good fight and it just depends on our availability. If we can get a strong side out most weeks we can give anyone a match really. But it just depends on availability at the minute.
“The top two will go through which is a tough ask for us. But it’s quite exciting. Especially with a lot of these matches being local derbies. It adds a little more spice to the mix.”
After such a long period without competitive cricket, Nadeem hopes the players will be chomping at the bit to play as much as possible, however, he accepts and understands why some are uncertain about returning to the game due to fears over COVID-19.
“We had a few friendly matches last weekend and it was good to get back out there,” he said. “Training has not been so easy and there are still a few players who are not available.
“There are some players who are worried about playing cricket, but the majority of them will be available which is a good sign. We need to get some cricket in now.
“It was alright playing last week. 40 overs doesn’t take you all day which is quite nice. It’s in between really. It’s not 20 overs and it’s not 60 overs. I thought it was a good shout to do it this way, with eight overs per bowler.
“Apart from that it’s more or less the same (despite the game’s adaptations for COVID-19). The keeper can’t stand right up against the wickets like before but everyone will adapt to whatever is needed.”
Nadeem added that the impact of COVID-19 had been financially draining for the club.
The cancellation of matches and events has robbed them of their revenue but ‘the bills are still there to be paid'.
“I don’t know how other clubs have been finding it but financially it’s been very draining for us,” he said.
“There’s been nothing happening at the club, no events or anything but we’ve still had the bills to pay you see, so it’s going to be a tough year, real tough. But we’re heading in the right direction and we’ll just have to see how it goes.”
Rizwan Nadeem will skipper the side this season.
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