The Church Times Cricket Cup began in 1951 and has been fiercely contested by dioceses ever since.
The idea for an inter-diocesan cricket competition was first suggested by the Revd Greader Bussell, Vicar of Ardington, near Wantage, in Oxfordshire, who argued that “clergy cricket should cease to be haphazard and instead should operate on an organised basis”. One diocese objected: “The clergy play cricket for relaxation only, and we feel that a competitive element would tend to spoil the enjoyment of the game.”
Nevertheless, 18 teams, from English and Welsh dioceses, entered the first competition in 1951, and, in 1952, six more joined in, and the competition was divided into four regional leagues.
Rules stipulated that teams were to consist of men in holy orders who held a bishop’s license; laymen were permitted to umpire.
Today, each team is allowed up to four non-clerical players who either hold a bishop’s license or who are full-time church workers in the diocese (non-Anglican players included): the remainder must be persons (men or women) in holy orders who hold their bishop’s license or have permission to officiate.
First-round matches are played in four regional groups: North; Midlands; South-East; South-West. Ten points are awarded for a win, five points for a draw. The winners and runners-up of each group go through to the quarter-finals, where they battle it out for a place in the semi-finals, and, ultimately the final.
The final is played on the first Thursday of September at the Walker Cricket Ground in Southgate, north London – where it has been played every year since 1951.
The editor of the Church Times, Paul Handley, says: “The tournament tells the clergy that life is not all about PCC meetings and even pastoral work. They’ve got to look after themselves. We have endless arguments and debates in the paper about different bits of the Church disagreeing with each other, and possibly not even talking to each other, and yet on the cricket pitch they are in the same enterprise. It’s a great bonding thing, as well as being hugely enjoyable.”
Read more: the latest results from the Church Times Cricket Cup