Student cricketers have been given the opportunity to secure a first class degree alongside a first-class record next summer after it was announced that all six MCC Universities (MCCUs) have been awarded first-class status by the ECB.
Each of the MCCUs will play three 3-day fixtures against full county sides, with first-class status conferred on the first two matches.
It is the first time that Cardiff MCCU and Leeds/Bradford MCCU have been granted first-class status since the universities scheme began in 2001, and represents a justified reward, following excellent performances by both centres in recent years.
Enthusiasm and pride
Cardiff will start their first-class campaign against Somerset on Saturday 31st March in Taunton, while Leeds / Bradford will take on Surrey at the Kia Oval on the same day.
Cardiff MCCU Head Coach, Kevin Lyons, reacted warmly to the decision.
“The announcement was received with great enthusiasm and much pride from all involved here," he said.
“Performances and results over the last five years – winning eleven trophies including three MCC Challenge Finals at Lord’s – has been the reward of much hard work from a dedicated team both on and off the field.
“We look forward to the future with confidence and working hard to build on our established base of standards, but remembering the basic aims of the MCC Universities scheme, which is to develop the character of talented student players, whilst helping them move on to successful careers within the game.’
Highlight of the season
The first-class matches are the highlight of the season for MCCU players, presenting the dual opportunity for them to test themselves against stronger and more experienced opposition, whilst showcasing their talent to county coaches.
In 2011 the MCCUs acquitted themselves well throughout the eighteen county matches played, securing ten draws, in addition to a historic victory by Cambridge against a Surrey side captained by Kevin Pietersen at Fenner’s in May.
Former England cricketer and Cambridge University student, John Crawley, will be hoping that he can help build on this success next season, as he assumes a mentoring role with Cambridge this winter. He said:
“I am really looking forward to working with the Cambridge MCCU squad. They are a talented group with lots of potential, and I can’t wait to get started.
"The life of a professional cricketer is the equivalent of living the dream. However, it can be short and unpredictable.
”Having a solid education for use within and after a career in cricket is a great luxury and one which the MCCU scheme makes possible.
“Cambridge played such a big part my cricketing development and now, with the active support of MCC, it is even more equipped to nurture sporting and academic prowess."
Consistent performers and top achievers
Commenting on the first-class announcement, MCC Head of Cricket, John Stephenson, said:“I am absolutely delighted that all six of the MCCUs have been awarded first-class status next summer.
“Cardiff and Leeds/Bradford have been consistent performers and top achievers in the MCCU Championship over the last few years, and it is very positive that this has been recognised and rewarded.
“It is also excellent news that John Crawley will join Cambridge this winter in a mentoring capacity.
”John enjoyed a superb professional career and played at the very top of the game for many years – it is now up to the players to make sure that they tap into his knowledge and experience.”
MCC has financially supported and administrated six university cricket academies in England and Wales through the MCCU scheme since 2005.
The MCCUs aim to give promising young players the chance to receive top-level coaching and playing opportunities whilst furthering their education.
Around a fifth of all English-qualified players in the county system attended an MCCU, including England captain Andrew Strauss, England and Sussex bowler Monty Panesar, and Essex Captain James Foster.