By CONRAD SUTCLIFFE
THE social cricketers of Sunset CC will celebrate their silver jubilee on Saturday night with many of the friends they have made on and off the field.
Sunset don’t play in any leagues, don’t enter any cups and try to avoid playing anything longer than a 20-over game on weekday evenings during the summer.
Sunset, who play their home games at the Coaver Club in the grounds of County Hall in Exeter, play a type of friendly, short-duration cricket that used to be popular immediately after the war.
Although evening cricket has been on the wane for the past 20 years, enthusiasm for the Sunset style has grown. From a handful of games back in 1995, the club had 39 matches on the fixture list in 2019, and played 37 of them.
Bernie Wilson, who was one of the founder members back in the winter of 1994-95, said the success of the club proves there is still a need for friendly 20-over cricket on weekday evenings.
“After a hard week at work not everyone wants to play all-day on a Saturday in a serious league match when they would like to spend time with the family,” said Wilson.
“Playing on a Friday night, and having a beer or two afterwards, allows people to keep in touch with cricket without a huge commitment.
“Since we started Sunset 25 years ago we have tried to ensure everyone who plays gets involved in the game as a batsman or bowler.
“Some principals were put in place from the start, such as no one bowls more than four overs and batsmen have to retire at 25 or 30.
“If everyone takes part in the game they are keen to play again. That way you don’t have such a struggle getting teams up.”
Another guiding principal for the founding fathers of the club was the importance of putting something back into the local community.
“Any spare cash left over at the end of the season is donated to a local charity,” said Wilson.
“We have donated around £15,000 since we started and last year gave £16,000 to the Samaritans in Exeter.”
This year’s beneficiary is the Devon Air Ambulance appeal fund.
Wilson and friend Roger Harris were founder members of Sunset and, despite advancing years, remain involved as players and officials.
Wilson, 72, played in 30 of last season’s games and finished second in the bowling averages with 25 wickets from 102 overs bowled.
“Roger only plays the odd game now and then but is still involved as our president,” said Wilson.
Wilson intends to soldier on as a player for another season in a side of mixed ages and abilities.
“There are teenage youngsters who play for us and the whole range from late 20s through to 50s and 60s,” said Wilson.
“Some of our players do have league clubs on a Saturday, but we welcome anyone who wants to play as long as they love of the game.”
Wilson was playing 2ndXI cricket for Exeter when Sunset was formed by a few friends who met regularly to play doubles tennis before adjourning for refreshment.
Wilson came up with the name and Harris a ground to play on at Exminster on an artificial wicket laid on St Martin’s FC’s ground.
Two season’s later Sunset moved to Woodbury’s Town Lane ground, where they remained for 13 happy seasons.
Friday night was cricket night for Sunset CC, who entertained visiting teams in the nearby Maltsters Arms pub.
“When Jim Knighton from the pub agreed to provide food after games providing we went there for a beer with the opposition, how could we turn down such a good social aspect?” said Wilson.
Sunset did not move again until 2010 when Woodbury started using their ground on Friday nights for youth training.
The Coaver Club became Sunset’s next home ground, which Wilson said might have helped the club thrive.
“Coaver is a lot more central for players and since we moved there the club has grown and grown,” said Wilson.
“Now we play two games most weeks, had two tours this year and played our last game on October 6.”
To mark their silver jubilee the club toured North Devon in June and Gloucestershire in September. A six-a-side tournament was staged in June, which was won by Branscombe, who defeated Erratics in the final.
Sunset’s fixture list for 2020 is already complete and includes games against Teign Valley, Heads and Tails, Geriatrics, Devon Medics the Tale Millers from Payhembury and Spitchwick.
Wilson has invited friendly rivals from teams on the fixture list to attend the social at the Coaver Club on Saturday night.
“We hope as many of our friends as possible can join us as we celebrate our 25thyear,” said Wilson.