WHOLESALE changes to the playing regulations in the Francis Clark Devon Cricket League were voted through at the competition's annual meeting in Exeter despite a few murmurs of dissent.
Straight win-lose cricket was trialled in the Premier Division in 2012 in place of the traditional Devon that which allowed the team batting second to block out for a draw if they had no prospect of winning the match.
Devon copied the format used elsewhere in the country at the time when the league was formed in 1972, coining the phrases winning and losing draw to explain who had the best of a stalemate.
The England & Wales Cricket Board, which oversees Premier League competitions such as the Devon League, has never been too keen on win-lose cricket on a Saturday afternoon. The view from ECB HQ has been league cricket should be a microcosm of the First Class game, in which you have to bowl a side out at some stage to win a match.
Over the past few years ECB's line has softened and win-lose cricket is becoming more commonplace.
Clubs discussed the switch throughout all 15 divisions of the league in cluster groups last autumn and overwhelmingly agreed win-lose cricket was what they wanted.
Interestingly, on the night of the annual meeting at the Exeter Court Hotel, there were no speakers in favour of the change, only a handful against.
Exeter, Topsham St James and Dartington & Totnes all voiced concerns about rigid limitations on the number of overs bowlers are permitted – and having enough bowlers to get through a match, especially at second, third and fourth team level.
"How will batting against sides who have two or three bowlers who really aren't good enough improve the standard of cricket?" said Mick Rusling of Dartington & Totnes.
Rupert Pratt, the chairman of Topsham St James, said having a draw meant games which could easily be mis-matches were kept alive right to the end.
"Sometimes it is numbers nine, ten and eleven who can save a game – and that is quite an achievement for them," said Pratt.
Clubs sat in polite silence while the dissenters had their say – and voted overwhelmingly in favour of ignoring them!
There are minor differences between the upper and lower divisions in terms of duration and bowlers' limitations, but broadly they are as follows:
Premier & A Division 1st XI: 50 overs a side; ten overs a bowler (or 20 per cent of the total available in a shortened game); 30-yard fielding circles and power plays 12.30pm starts, batting bonus points at 125, 150, 175, 200 and 225; a bowling point for every two wickets; two extra points for winning a match after declaring in the first innings before 90 per cent of the overs have been bowled; a point for every two wickets in hand at the end of a successful run chase.
B & C Division 1st XI; Premier & A Division 2nd XI: 45 overs a side, nine overs a bowler (or 20 per cent of the total available in a shortened game); 1.30pm starts, 30-yard fielding circles and power plays; batting bonus points at 100, 125, 150, 175 and 200 runs. Rest as per Premier and A Divisions.
All other divisions: 45 overs a side, no power plays or fielding restrictions, 2pm starts. Otherwise, rules are the same as higher divisions.
The most heated debate of the evening came when a proposal to redraw the registration rules was thrown out despite being backed enthusiastically by the league management.
Clubs were not interested in the nuances of who qualifies as an overseas player, a thorny problem in the past, but were concerned by the plan to introduce all-through registration from top to bottom.
Currently, clubs don't need to register players for 2nd XI games, a loophole the league management has wanted to close for a while.
Speaker after speaker apposed the amendment, which drew no proponents among the clubs represented.
Bradninch, Thorverton, Shobrooke Park, Paignton and Halberton and Sampford Peverell all opposed the motion.
James May (Thorverton CC) said: "This would be a barrier to people taking part in cricket matches – not something we should encourage."
Danny Coles of Halberton & Sampford Peverell said clubs in the lower divisions often rounded up players on Friday nights and Saturday mornings – and that would be almost impossible under the proposed rule.
And Paignton's Geoff Read spoke for many when he said: "It is a lot of unnecessary paperwork for no good reason."
League administrator Geoff Coish said the current system didn't encourage loyalty to clubs, pointing out that divisional secretaries often found cases of players flitting from club to club on a weekly basis.
Clubs were unimpressed and voted 44-13 against the league proposal. When the vote was announced, a spontaneous round of applause broke out!
Some good news for clubs in tough times financially was that subscriptions will be reduced for 2013 by between £25 and £30 depending on the division entered.
Although the league reported a loss of nearly £5,100 in 2012, reserves remain healthy at around £13,000.
Prior to the meeting, league members who had achieved ECB Clubmark accreditation were presented with framed certificates.
Once the formal business of the evening was over, championship and individual trophies were handed out to winning clubs and players.
The young player of the year award went to Plympton's Josh Mailing.
Exmouth and Devon batsman David Lye won the player of the year award for scoring 717 runs at an average of 55.15 in the Premier Division. Neither recipient was there to collect their awards.
ROLL OF HONOUR – 2012
Champions: Premier 1st XI – Sidmouth; 2nd XI – Bovey Tracey. A Division 1st XI – Exeter; 2nd XI – Sandford. B Division 1st XI – Barton; 2nd XI – Plymstock. C Division – Stoke Gabriel; 2nd XI – Cornwood 3rd XI; D Division 1st XI – Yelverton; 2nd XI – Ivybridge; E Division – Uplyme; E Division West – Bovey Tracey; E Division East – Seaton 2nd XI. F Division – Babbacombe 1st XI.
Clubs of the season (based on umpires' reports): Premier – North Devon, A Division – Exeter; B Division – Thorverton, C Division – Chagford.
Captain of the season (based on umpires' marks): Premier – Matt Theedom (Sandford), A Division – Craig Harris (Cornwood), B Division – Kalon Veale (Dartington & Totnes), C Division – Keith Wakehem (Ipplepen).
Bob Bridges Youth Award – Josh Mailing (Plympton CC); Player of the Year – David Lye (Exmouth CC): Services to the League – Richard Hussey (treasurer, 2003-2012).