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Although many of the district's clubs had met regularly as far back as 1850, or earlier, it was not until 1892 that a Liverpool newspaper began publishing a weekly table and calling it the Liverpool Competition in order to create more interest in the game.
The eleven senior clubs making up the original table were Birkenhead Park, Bootle, Formby, Huyton, Liverpool, New Brighton, Northern, Ormskirk, Oxton, Rock Ferry and Sefton.
Neston were offered first team fixtures in 1908 and, in 1919, Hightown and Southport and Birkdale joined whilst Wallasey took over the fixtures of the Rock Ferry club who did not resume after the First War. Boughton Hall (not then known as Chester) were invited to join in 1923.
The Competition continued until 1947 when it was decided to admit a sixteenth club and Preston were voted in. Two years later, fixtures were standardised by all clubs agreeing to meet each other and although there was no suggestion of a league, it was decided to regard the table as official.
Preston resigned at the end of the 1952 season to be replaced by St. Helens Recs in 1953.
The Competition remained in this format until 1996 when an expansion programme began with the election of seven clubs - Colwyn Bay, Marchwiel and Northop Hall from North Wales and Leigh, Newton le Willows, St. Helens and Wigan from the Manchester Association.
The Manchester Association suffered further when Bolton and Worsley were admitted in 1997. Widnes were elected as Associate Members to play third eleven cricket. At the end of the 1997 season, founder members Birkenhead Park, Chester Boughton Hall, Neston and Oxton resigned to join the Cheshire County League following the Lancashire Cricket Board's abortive attempt to 'cherry pick' clubs to form a Premier League.
Manchester Association champions, Lytham were elected in 1998, Oxton were elected as Associate Members, Sefton were renamed Sefton Park, Marchwiel resigned and Widnes were renamed Widnes Birchfield.
The top 12 in the 1st and 2nd XI tables at the end of the 1998 season were to form the new Premier Divisions the following season with the remainder in the First Divisions.
In 1999, the Competition was extended to 24 Full Member clubs with the admission of Fleetwood Hesketh, Maghull and Orrell Red Triangle from the Southport League. History was created this season with the formation of a two division system, 2 up and 2 down, at 1st and 2nd XI level. Widnes Birchfield became Birchfield Park.
Merseyside Competition champions, Caldy, were elected in 2000 to play in the First Division. Southport and District Amateur League side Highfield were similarly elected in 2001.
In March 2000, the 1st XI Premier Division was granted 'ECB Premier League' status and became known as 'ECB Premier League'.
1st XI matches start at 1:00 pm (12:00 noon in late August and September) with the last 20 overs beginning at 6:45 pm (5:45 pm in late August and September) thus allowing for the required ECB minimum of 110 overs at a bowling rate of 17 overs per hour.
Lancashire County Cricket Club use Liverpool, Lytham and Southport & Birkdale as out grounds for 1st class matches as does Glamorgan County Cricket Club with Colwyn Bay. Other grounds, are regularly used for Lancashire 2nd XI and Minor County (Cheshire and Wales MC) matches.
In season 2001, Liverpool Cricket Club staged three Benson and Hedges Knockout games at its Aigburth ground where Lancashire played host to Durham (Tuesday May 1st), Derbyshire (Friday May 4th) and Yorkshire (Sunday May 6th). It was the first time that Yorkshire had played there in a first class related match since 1957.
Bolton resigned at the end of the 2001 season. Southport & District Amateur League side Haydock were elected and took their place in the First Division in 2002.
With the feeder league system taking effect at the end of the 2004 season, Haydock, bottom team in the First Division, were relegated to the Merseyside and Southport Cricket Alliance with their champions, Ainsdale, moving in the opposite direction.
From the end of the 2005 season, a 'two down, two up' system began between the Liverpool Competition and the Merseyside and Southport Cricket Alliance, provided that the teams being promoted met the Liverpool Competition ground criteria and that the club wished to be promoted in the first place.
Caldy and Worsley were relegated to the Merseyside and Southport Cricket Alliance with Prestatyn and Southport Trinity moving in the opposite direction into the L&DCC First Division for 2006.
The ECB Premier League increased to 14 in 2007. Rainhill and Wavertree were promoted from the Merseyside Alliance into the L&DCC First Division. 2008 welcomed Rainford and Skelmersdale into Division 1 and also Burscough and Norley Hall into the 2nd XI structure as, for the first time, 1st & 2nd XI's moved independently between the Competition and the Alliance.
A new name to appear in the 2nd XI Competition in 2009 was Parkfield Liscard from the Wirral. They are included within the 9 Associate LDCC Members:- Alder, Birchfield, Caldy, Huyton, Norley Hall, Oxton, Parkfield Liscard, Southport Trinity and Wavertree.
From 2010, the Competition divided into three divisions of 12 at 1st and 2nd team levels. The membership totalled 36 Full and 4 Associate members and was the outcome of a decade of co-operation and negotiation with the Merseyside & Southport Cricket Alliance and previously the Merseyside Competition and Southport & District League. The membership is set out below in divisional format. 2011 full membership remained unchanged with 3 Associate members.
2012 welcomed the return of Birkenhead Park to Division 2 and also to that Division, Old Xaverians who moved up from Associate Members. There were now 3 Divisions of 12 with 2 Associate Clubs. However, just prior to the season the talks between the 2 St. Helens clubs failed to produce a satisfactory solution to a merger as such and St. Helens failed to continue which meant that the League Management had no time to recommend another club. Thus, the 2nd Division played with 11 clubs which was disappointing to all. St. Helens Recs decided to change their name to St. Helens Town - again too late for printed publications. At the commencement of the season, there was interest from clubs to fill the space and it is confidently expected to appoint a new club before resignation deadlines from their existing league. Merseyside Cricket Competition were offered the opportunity to join the L&DCC 'umbrella' as an Associate League but their clubs voted against the proposal which was recommended by the MCC management.
It has become almost a sporting truism that the seeds of victory are frequently sown in the seemingly barren ground of defeat. The players and supporters of Northern CC were exhilarated in the late summer of 2013 when they reached four knockout finals but deeply deflated when they won just one of them. As they sat glumly in their Old Trafford changing room after losing to Bamford Fieldhouse in a rain-affected Lancashire Cup final James Cole and his players pledged that the next summer would be different; and to the delight of the Moor Park supporters the cricketers made good their resolve.
The 2013 season was the most successful in Northern’s proud history. They secured the Liverpool Competition’s ECB Premier League title in some comfort, winning 17 of their 22 games and finishing 74 points ahead of runners-up Ormskirk; after losing five previous finals, they also won the Ray Digman Trophy, beating their rivals from Brook Lane by seven wickets in a one-sided match on September 22; and they captured the Lancashire Cup, albeit that the final, which was again contested against Bamford Fieldhouse, had to be settled by a bowl-out which Northern won 5-2.
“Team spirit is an illusion glimpsed in the aftermath of victory,” said the former Tottenham Hotspur striker Steve Archibald. James Cole and his players would probably wish to differ. The Moor Park squad was, for the most part, impressively united in 2014 and their success was testament to their collective will to win. Of the batsmen only the skipper scored more than 600 league runs but the bowling was dominated by the accuracy of medium pacer Stephen Cole, who took 62 wickets in the top division, and Tom Sephton, who bagged 67. Led by a captain who displayed tactical awareness and imagination a little beyond his years, Northern’s players confidently surfed the wave of success last summer and when they reached land, they had three trophies in their hands. Only the mean of spirit begrudged them their success.
Almost all of Cole’s players learned their cricket either at Northern or at other clubs in the Med Imaging Liverpool Competition. The league’s commitment to foster excellence among its young cricketers is impressively deep yet it is rarely paid adequate tribute. In January 2013 32 young cricketers benefitted from ten weeks coaching through the Competition’s Player Development Programme; in 2014 36 players from 27 clubs embarked on the programme and will receive the sort of guidance which will help them achieve their potential. Expenditure on the league’s junior and Colts cricket continues to rise and the representative match programme features games at Under 12, 14 and 17 levels, including a very successful three-match series against the Isle of Man Colts. The Comp’s own Colts will take part in the inter-league round robin this year and both the Under 12 and Under 14 teams will play in competitions organised by the Lancashire Cricket Board.
Northern’s success did not obscure the excellence on show at other Premier League clubs last summer and the Liverpool Competition continues to be the league of choice for very many Lancashire cricketers looking to maintain or extend their skills. Old Trafford wicketkeeper Alex Davies was the top division’s heaviest scorer, his 798 runs being garnered from only 13 innings for Lytham. Fleetwood Hesketh’s Neil Rimmer made up for a slow start to the season by plundering 781 runs and his return to form played a large part in the Sea Cop club avoiding relegation. In a summer when league matches were rarely disrupted by bad weather 11 players scored in excess of 600 runs and the leading all-rounder was Wallasey’s Neil Cross who buttressed the 51 wickets gained by accurate off-spin with 601 runs.
The battle at the bottom of the Premier League was more intriguing than the one-horse canter to the title. Going into the last few weeks of the season, five clubs were involved in this most unwelcome of struggles and Highfield were probably a little unfortunate to end the 22-match programme in eleventh place. The Billinge Road side are already hot favourites to make a swift return to the top division. Hightown’s fate is considerably sadder, though. Beginning the summer with a smart new pavilion following a disastrous fire, the Sandy Lane team struggled against the Competition’s powerhouses and finished bottom of the league. Over the winter it became clear to Hightown’s officials that they would find it hard to prosper even in the First Division and they have agreed to be placed in the league’s bottom tier in 2014, a move which means that Formby, who finished 11th in the First Division, avoid relegation.
Perhaps the most unfortunate side in 2013 were Ormskirk, although Ian Robinson’s battle-hardened players would probably shrug off any sympathy they were offered. Runners-up in the Premier League and beaten in the final of the league knockout, Brook Lane was still buzzing when the team reached the televised finals of the ECB National Club t20 competition at the Oval. However, persistent rain prevented Robinson’s men even treading the turf of the famous Test match ground and a victory over Chester-le-Street in the semi-final bowl-out offered only limited consolation. Ormskirk then lost to Wimbledon in a final which was settled by the same method and returned home to reflect on their damp anti-climax of a day. The ECB plan to introduce a reserve day for the final of this competition in 2014.
In the First Division Birkenhead Park won the title and completed a triumphant return to the league. Seamer Chris Stenhouse continued to impress the good judges by taking 68 wickets and experienced left-arm Robbie Houghton sent 71 batsmen back to the pavilion. It will be fascinating to see how the Wirral side fare against the very best on Merseyside and its surrounds. Thanks in some measure to Mohammad Aslam’s (aka Qureshi) 106 wickets, Rainhill finished runners-up in the First Division and the former Merseyside Competition team will also face the challenge they have craved for a few seasons. As ever, it seems, the Competition’s second tier offered some of the most closely-contested cricket in the league and in 2013 it also provided perhaps the most remarkable individual achievement: in 14 innings, until he returned to India, Ainsdale’s Wasim Jaffer scored 1110 runs at an average of 100.9. However, what was most impressive about Jaffer, according to the accounts of his team-mates, was the manner in which he bought in to the team ethos Dave Newcombe was trying to build at Liverpool Road and his constant encouragement to those whose ability did not quite equal his own.
In the Second Division Sefton Park secured the title with 15 victories from 22 games although runners-up Wavertree pushed the former Premier League side hard and newcomers Spring View enjoyed a fine debut season and finished third in the table. While Barbadian Justin Greaves scored 742 runs for the champions, the heaviest scorer was Old Xaverians’ Ian Carroll who racked up 1030 runs, a tally which included three centuries and seven fifties. Sefton Park’s left-arm spinner Peter Kelly was the most successful bowler, taking 80 wickets at a cost of 12.45 apiece. Kelly’s success was all the more impressive because, after the frustrations of 2012, it was something of a batsmen’s summer in the Liverpool Competition. In the Second Division 17 batsmen passed 500 runs and washed-out Saturdays were rare. Cricket lovers on Merseyside have already ordered something of the same for the season just begun.
ECB Premier League: Birkenhead Park, Bootle, Fleetwood Hesketh, Leigh, Lytham, Maghull, New Brighton, Northern, Ormskirk, Rainhill, Southport and Birkdale, Wallasey.
First Division: Ainsdale, Colwyn Bay, Highfield, Formby, Liverpool, Newton le Willows, Northop Hall, Orrell Red Triangle, Rainford, Sefton Park, Wavertree, Wigan.
Second Division: Alder, Birkenhead St Mary's, Burscough, Caldy, Hightown, Old Xaverians, Parkfield Liscard, Prestatyn, St Helens Town, Skelmersdale, Spring View, Sutton.
Armstrong was one of five batsmen to score in excess of 700 Premier League runs in 2014 but any of the 15 cricketers who made more than 500 could be pretty pleased with themselves in a summer when the rain seemed to wait until Saturdays before bucketing down. Indeed, 15 of the Competition’s 36 clubs had three or more of their games abandoned or curtailed by the weather. There was still plenty to enjoy in every division, though. In the Premier League New Brighton’s Martyn Evans milked attacks for the 756 runs which helped his team secure the runners-up spot, although the Premier League Player of the Year accolade was awarded to Lytham’s Will Hale, who made four centuries in his 983 runs and opened the batting for Lancashire’s second team. New Brighton’s players had to be satisfied with lifting the Ray Digman Trophy after a two-wicket victory over Leigh in the final. Relegation was suffered by Maghull, who won just one league game all season, and by Fleetwood Hesketh, who were victorious in half a dozen matches yet failed to garner anything like enough runs in their other 16 games. Rainhill’s survival was largely the work of Mohammed Qureshi, who dismissed five or more batsmen in 11 of his 20 matches and finished the campaign with 94 wickets. Once again Wallasey’s Neil Cross (36 wickets and 631 runs) could lay claim to being the top division’s leading all-rounder.
The struggle to win promotion from the First Division was intriguing right up to the final Saturday of the season when five clubs had a chance of finishing in the top two and four of them were pitted against a rival for the palm. Formby’s victory over Wigan clinched the title for Ian Cockbain’s side and Mike Farrell’s century at Colwyn Bay helped Highfield gain the bonus points they needed to confirm their return to the top division after just one season. The champions’ triumph was aided by Dale McKay’s 1042 runs and once again an Australian left Cricket Path with his new friends and former team-mates wondering in what class of match they might see him again. For the 2015 season, Cockbain has persuaded that outstanding professional cricketer Gary Keedy to join him at Formby, where he will be joined by Lancashire, England and Brisbane Heat’s Stephen Parry. A few miles away at Northern another pair of left-arm slow bowlers will be examining the skills of Premier League batsmen after Rainford’s John Dotters (the First Division Player of the Year with 67 wickets) opted to join forces with fellow spinner Tom Sephton at Moor Park.
Followers of Second Division cricket witnessed two pleasing renaissances in 2014. Both Prestatyn and St Helens Town have experienced fluctuating fortunes over the past few seasons but the pair can now regard the future with a measure of optimism after securing promotion to the First Division with teams that featured a good clutch of local talent. Danny Davies scored 623 runs for the Beach Close side who won the title by 48 points after a summer in which they suffered only two defeats. However, the combination of Sampath Perera (68 wickets at 7.01) and Second Division Player of the Season Kieran New (69 at 11.44) were even more instrumental in a season the Welsh club’s members will recall with pride.
St Helens Town finished second but their achievement was quite as meritorious as that of the champions. Only a few years ago it was very likely that cricket was in the propinquity of termination at Ruskin Drive. Now officials and supporters can look forward to the construction of a brand new facility in which the summer game will play a key role. Those excellent tidings were celebrated in proper fashion by Craig Woods and his players in 2014: the skipper scored 628 runs and St Helens pipped Skelmersdale, for whom Adeel Baig scored 722 runs and took 52 wickets, for the second promotion spot. The old timers who remember the now demolished refreshment kiosk and grand if rickety scoreboard at Ruskin Drive may have raised a glass to St Helens last September.
ECB Premier League: Birkenhead Park, Bootle, Formby, Highfield, Leigh, Lytham, New Brighton, Northern, Ormskirk, Rainhill, Southport and Birkdale, Wallasey.
First Division: Ainsdale, Colwyn Bay, Fleetwood Hesketh, Liverpool, Maghull, Newton le Willows, Northop Hall, Prestatyn, Rainford, St Helens Town, Sefton Park, Wigan.
Second Division: Alder, Birkenhead St Mary's, Burscough, Caldy, Hightown St. Mary's, Old Xaverians, Parkfield Liscard, Orrell Red Triangle, Skelmersdale, Spring View, Sutton, Wavertree.
Yet for all the publicity rightly attached to hard-earned cup wins, it is quite rightly by their performances in league cricket that most teams’ seasons are judged. And few would dispute the view that New Brighton were the Liverpool Competition’s best side in 2015. Skilfully led by Martyn Evans, the Rake Lane team bagged its first title since 1998 with a string of excellent displays which left them 59 points clear of runners-up Ormskirk. Many pointed to Ashraf Nawab’s 76 wickets as the most important contribution to New Brighton’s success; the slow left-armer was second only to Rainhill’s Mohammed Qureshi (97 wickets) in the list of Premier League wicket-takers. Others identified the Premier League’s player of the year, David While (630 runs and 45 wickets), as the cricketer who made the difference. But as Northern, Bootle, Colwyn Bay and a host of other teams found in 2015, success often follows when 11 cricketers commit themselves to pulling their tripes out for each other. Evans led a team in which pretty much everyone could bat and which boasted no shortage of bowling options. The skipper insisted on a high standard of fielding. The result of all that effort can be seen reflected in the John Tristram Trophy which currently adorns the Wirral club’s trophy cabinet. In the Second Division Burscough began the season in irresistible form and ended it with the title comfortably secured by 66 points from Orrell Red Triangle. Jon Stone’s 72 wickets were enough to earn him the divisional player of the season award but Rob Glaysher was another skipper blessed in 2015 with no shortage of talent at his disposal. At the bottom of the Second Division Birkenhead St Mary’s managed only one league win and will be replaced by Southport Trinity. However, this most welcoming club on the Wirral is wished every success as it adjusts to its new circumstances.
ECB Premier League: Birkenhead Park, Bootle, Colwyn Bay, Formby, Leigh, Lytham, New Brighton, Northern, Ormskirk, Rainford, Rainhill, Wallasey.
First Division: Ainsdale, Burscough, Fleetwood Hesketh, Highfield, Maghull, Newton le Willows, Northop Hall, Orrell Red Triangle, Prestatyn, Sefton Park, Southport and Birkdale, Wigan.
Second Division: Alder, Caldy, Hightown St. Mary's, Liverpool, Old Xaverians, Parkfield Liscard, St Helens Town, Skelmersdale, Southport Trinity, Spring View, Sutton, Wavertree.
On the field, the men in white coats had few better sights in 2016 than watching Matt McKiernan play cricket. The Leigh all-rounder took 78 wickets with his leg-spin bowling and these successes, added to his 570 runs, ensured that he would be the ECB Premier League’s player of the season. Rather more significantly, of course, McKiernan played a leading role in ensuring that the Beech Walk cricketers could celebrate their first Liverpool Competition title in September. That splendid achievement was also made possible by Ross Zelem’s 898 runs and by Luis Reece’s return of 655 runs and 38 wickets. Leigh were, indeed, fortunate that Lancashire did not require Reece’s services on many Saturdays last year and this fine all-rounder is wished every success as he seeks to continue his professional career at Derbyshire. However, the achievement of Foster’s team cannot be explained by the availability of one player, however talented; rather it was testament to the excellence of the best team in the Competition. Leigh didn’t have things all their own way, though. Formby were one of four teams who were also in with a chance of winning the Competition’s biggest prize but Ian Cockbain’s team had to settle for the runners- up spot, their disappointment being assuaged somewhat by their defeat of Colwyn Bay in the final of the Ray Digman Trophy. In the bottom half of the table slow left-armer Mohammed Qureshi ended a most distinguished career in the Liverpool Competition by taking 79 wickets and keeping Rainhill clear of the relegation places eventually occupied by Rainford and Birkenhead Park. Despite at one stage being in the hunt for six trophies, Ormskirk finished the season empty-handed but Josh Bohannon’s 807 runs constituted a formidable announcement of his talent, something which the coaches at Emirates Old Trafford also noticed. As is so often the case, the First Division offered spectators some of the tensest cricket in the Competition. Andy Barlow’s Ainsdale team clinched promotion with a week to spare and will play in the top division of the league for the first time in their history. However, the most gripping climax to the season was on view at Trafalgar Road where Southport and Birkdale’s one-wicket victory over Newton-le-Willows edged out Sefton Park for the second promotion place. Having beaten Fleetwood Hesketh earlier in the season, Richie Forsyth and his players were watching as S&B’s last pair, Chris Firth and Andy Warhurst, dashed their dreams; it was a fine way to end the summer. In the Second Division Skelmersdale, another young side overflowing with enthusiasm for the game, were prohibitive favourites for promotion from June onwards. Skipper Danny Edwards took 66 wickets at a laughable 6.72 runs apiece but has now returned to Lytham where he will also be first-team captain. Skem won the division by 114 points but the most heart-warming tale of the season came from Sandy Lane where the former Zimbabwe skipper Tatenda Taibu inspired Hightown St Mary’s to a late run which saw them finish second in the table barely 18 months after the future of the Hightown club seemed in doubt. A merger with St Mary’s Old Boys CC then proved just the tonic players in both clubs needed and they, like hundreds of other cricketers on Merseyside and in its environs will be greeting the ever-lightening evenings with the quiet smiles cricketers reserve for early spring.
ECB Premier League: Ainsdale, Bootle, Colwyn Bay, Formby, Leigh, Lytham, New Brighton, Northern, Ormskirk, Rainhill, Southport and Birkdale, Wallasey.
First Division: Birkenhead Park, Burscough, Fleetwood Hesketh, Highfield, Hightown St Mary's, Newton le Willows, Orrell Red Triangle, Prestatyn, Sefton Park, Skelmersdale, Southport and Birkdale, Wigan.
Second Division: Alder, Caldy, Liverpool, Maghull, Northop Hall, Old Xaverians, Parkfield Liscard, Prescot & Odyssey, St Helens Town, Southport Trinity, Spring View, Wavertree.