Minor Counties cricket returning to Plymouth in 2018 after 17 year absence

Mount Wise

MINOR Counties Cricket is set to return to Plymouth this summer after an absence of 17 years.

Devon have asked Plymouth CC to host the Minor Counties Championship game against Herefordshire at Mount Wise on July 22-24.

The last time Devon played in Plymouth was way back in 2001 when Oxfordshire were the visitors to what was then a Ministry of Defence-owned ground used by United Services CC.

Devon won the game by 166 runs with skipper Bob Dawson scoring 221 in the first innings – a career best for him – and 59 in the second.

Mount Wise has undergone a transformation since Devon last played there, driven by new residents Plymouth CC. The crowning glory is the new £375,00 pavilion opened in 2012.

It’s a far cry from the dark days of 2005 when the ground was out of use and in danger becoming derelict after the MoD pulled the plug on funding for maintenance.

The ground was on the Mount Wise Naval establishment where United Services and other military teams had been using the ground since 1890

The MoD started mothballing buildings at Mount Wise in 1996 as part of a shore-base streamlining exercise.

United Services CC folded in 2002 when the Ministry of Defence withdrew funding for the maintenance and upkeep of the ground. Not enough serving members of the armed forces were playing there to justify the expense.

Mount Wise CC was founded by a hard core of ex-Servicemen keen to keep the ground a venue for cricket and soldiered on for two more years.

Had it not been for Mount Wise CC, it is unlikely there would have been a cricket ground to save when Plymouth CC started using it for third and fourth team games in 2007.

Gavin Lane, a former officer in the Royal Navy who was secretary of Mount Wise CC when the club finally closed, said it was good to see the historic venue hosting representative cricket once more.

“Our aim was to keep cricket going at Mount Wise until the ground was sold in the hope that cricket would continue,” said Lane.

“Eventually, the club had to hand back the keys and I can honestly say on that very sad September day when I gave the keys to the local civil servants, the ground looked a picture and ready to host a Minor Counties match.

“When, eventually, the land was sold, the ground had grass three feet high, the square was somewhere and there were huge six-foot by six-foot by six-foot holes all over the place, where soil samples had been taken because the field had been a munitions dump during World War Two.

“The land was sold to a developer, the planning permission included retaining the cricket ground, which the city council offered to Plymouth CC. Mount Wise is now a vibrant cricket ground again.”

One reason Mount Wise is so vibrant is the amount of cricket being played there. Plymouth run three Saturday league sides and a ladies team playing on Sundays.

Lashings All Stars mingle with youngsters during the game at Mount Wise earlier this year - photo: Chris CottrellYouth cricket starts for nine year olds and runs through all the age groups in the Palladium Youth League up to under-15 level.

Plymouth CC showed it’s ability to stage a big match when the club hosted the star-studded Lashings World XI in May.

Devon’s fixture list is still being worked on for 2018. However, dates and venues of all three Championship games are already known. In addition to Plymouth there are matches against Wales at Sandford (June 24-26) and Dorset at Sidmouth (August 19-21).