Sunday 23rd July saw the inaugural 678 Finals day take place, producing a day of fantastically exciting cricket played by budding stars of the game.
The Palace Shield Cricket Competition organised the event which was superbly hosted by Blackpool Cricket Club, bringing together teams of boys and girls supported by mums, dads, siblings and coaches from across the region.
On the day itself, six teams played in two groups of three, culminating in a grand final between respective group winners Fulwood and Broughton and Longridge while Blackpool played Kirkham and Wesham in the 3rd/4th place match. Excellent batting and bowling throughout the team saw Longridge emerge as worthy overall competition victors, while Blackpool beat local rivals in the plate final. Chris Gunn, university lecturer, player and coach, who devised the format said, “It was great to see so many talented young players enjoying the sport with support from parents and coaches at such an excellent venue. It made for a great atmosphere with all enjoying this slightly different format.”
Chris also said, he wanted to develop a more inclusive form of the game, conscious of the need for cricket to adapt to the different needs of participants while harnessing the momentum provided by the new ‘cricket unleashed’ strategy. One of his key aims in developing this innovative format was a focus on inclusion and participation with the rules (see below) being formulated to provide all players with an opportunity to be fully involved and have some opportunity to affect the outcome. There was equally an intention to reduce the chances of a match being dominated by a single player. Finally, it is also hoped the social aspect of the event will be a significant factor, bringing together players, parents and supporters from a variety of clubs and giving as many as possible a chance to play in a finals day, inspiring them to be fully involved in this great sport.
Sponsored by the University of Central Lancashire, who are cognisant of the role sport can play in developing local communities, the 678 initiative was also supported by Lancashire Cricket Board. LCB Managing Director, Bobby Denning, attended the finals day and and was quick to point out that he wanted to support an event that was clearly designed to keep junior players enjoying the sport by being involved throughout the game.
Bobby commented "at a time when the game is moving into a new era in the County with All Stars Cricket, a new looking League landscape at Senior Level and a number of products and events to recruit and retain people in the game, the event has had my support from the outset. It's great to see committed people looking at innovative ways to achieve this. I spoke to both parents and players on the day and the underlying theme from all of the conversations was the event ensured ALL players had an active role to play throughout the game. Parents in particular were keen to stress this plays a big part in keeping them involved in playing the game for years to come.”
Chris Gunn thinks this format has the ingredients to be easily implemented in other counties and leagues. The mini-league structure ensures all teams play a minimum of two games with those in the top two positions going onto respective finals. All clubs that entered expressed a desire to do so again next season. It was also great to have the support of the local university, the University of Central Lancashire, who provided a trophy, winners’ plaques and runners-up medals as well as a goody bag for all those who took part.
Format: Groups of three played in a round-robin format to determine league positions with the winners going to play in the grand final and a plate final for those finishing runners-up in each league. Ideally, a large ground is needed allowing two games to take place simultaneously either sides of the square or a club with two pitches nearby. This allows the six team format and also generates a better atmosphere with more players and spectators convening at the same venue.
Match Length and Bowling:
- The game consists of one innings per team of 7 overs (each over being 8balls). Everyone except the wicketkeeper must bowl one over, with two players being allowed to bowl two overs (hence 7overs).
- For each individual game all the overs are bowled at the same end, saving time changing round between overs, the end to be agreed at the outset with the other teams present.
- Those players who bowl two overs cannot open the batting.
- Wides and no-balls shall count two runs as extras, but no additional ball shall be bowled unless in the final (seventh over of the innings) when an extra ball, as well as the two runs penalty, will also be required.
- Batters retire at 30 and cannot return.
- Last man/woman stands. Upon the loss of the fifth wicket the out batter stays at the crease but shall not be allowed to face any deliveries (he/she can still be run out). Upon the loss of the sixth wicket or the final ball of the 7th over is bowled that is the end of the innings.
The winners shall be the team that scored the most runs. In the event of a tie, the team losing fewer wickets shall be declared winners. A super over or bowl out can be used if time is available. Similarly, if two teams finish on level points in the group stage either a single super over can be played or a bowl out, depending on time available.