Bailey’s Bay will play their first Eastern Counties match at Lord’s since their controversial match with then champions Cleveland County two years ago.
Rules are now in place, however, to ensure there will not be a repeat of the time-wasting by the holders that marred the 2015 series and cost Bay victory.
The stumps were pulled at the 7.20pm cut-off time with Bay needing just one run to reclaim the trophy.
Time lost when Cleveland disputed umpiring decisions and threatened to walk off was not made up and Bay were robbed of the win.
The first-round clash on July 22 between new champions St David’s and Bay is the most eagerly anticipated encounter and new rules have been in place since last season.
Rules still require 118 overs to be bowled during the day, but the allocation has been changed from 70-48 to a maximum 65 for the team batting and 53 for the second team.
The idea of making it a game of 50 overs a side was not given serious consideration, according to Eddie Lamb, the chairman of the Rules and Regulations Committee and vice-president of the Eastern Counties Association.
“That topic always comes up but the Eastern Counties prides itself on being different,” Lamb said.
“We always find ourselves back at the place where we want to maintain our uniqueness while still having a very competitive game.
“We narrowed the gap from 70-48 to 65-53 and it does change tactics somewhat for the challenger and the champions but we decided to remain in an open-day format but with some control.
“The rules call for 118 overs or a 7.20pm cut-off, whichever comes first.
“We reckon that 118 overs should be played by 7.20 and to give the umpires a bit more teeth, we have implemented penalty runs for either the batting or bowling sides for time-wasting.
“Any team not bowling at the regulation rate of 15 overs an hour, then the umpire will issue a warning and eventually can impose penalty runs for time wasting.”
Last year there were no incidents at Sea Breeze Oval where St David’s dethroned Cleveland in the second round and then drew with Bay to end the series as champions.
“We had a post-morten after the series where we reviewed the rules again with the umpires’ input, just to see if there was any room for improvement,” Lamb explained. “We were all content to leave the rules as they were, they achieved the aim, that being fair play throughout the series, while getting in the required amount of overs on time. Every decision we made had input from all four clubs.”
Previously a player who joined an Eastern Counties club in the league had to be with that club for two full seasons before becoming eligible to play in the counties in their third season. Now they have to spend just one full season with a club before becoming eligible in their second season.
Such is the case with Derrick Brangman and Pierre Smith of Bay who are both eligible this year, their second season at Sea Breeze Oval. However, they would lose that eligibility by leaving the club, although they become eligible again immediately if they return to that club.
That rule prevents Allan Douglas Jr of St David’s from playing for Cleveland unless he rejoins Cleveland’s league team, although team-mate Dion Stovell is still eligible to play for Cleveland as his qualification is through residency in the area.
The same applies to Tre Manders who once lived in Duck’s Puddle and can play for Bay even though he now turns out for Western Stars.
“The main pillars of Eastern Counties [qualification] remain the same, that is being born in the county or residing in the county for two or more years,” Lamb explained.
“The third eligibility is playing for the league team which used to be two years and then becoming eligible in the third year.
“We reduced that to one year [qualification] and playing in the second year.
“We also changed that if you come back to the club you don’t have to requalify. The born rule and residing rules speaks to a connection to the communities, but if you qualify through the playing rule then you have to come back and be playing for that club.
“The strength of the Eastern Counties is a cultural identity that stretches back 113 years, mostly through St David’s and Tucker’s Town, the two originators of the competition.
“We understand the weighty responsibility we have to preserve the culture of Eastern Counties.
“Eastern Counties is not about a cricket game, but our community pride and our cultural identity.
“The communities get together and a cricket game breaks out! There is a fierce rivalry on and off the field but there is no question we’re all interrelated. That’s what makes Eastern Counties so special.”