Umpire on the bench gives out an entire cricket team

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The Independent Online

A debate that has rocked the seemingly sedate world of village cricket was resolved yesterday when a High Court judge ruled that the Welsh "village" of Usk is really a town.

A debate that has rocked the seemingly sedate world of village cricket was resolved yesterday when a High Court judge ruled that the Welsh "village" of Usk is really a town.

The sporting gentlemen of Usk Cricket Club had travelled from Monmouthshire to the High Court in Bristol to try to overturn what they saw as a gross injustice.

The side was expelled from the National Village Cricket Championship nine days ago on the basis that they had crept into the competition by calling their home a village when, in reality, it was a town.

The batsmen and bowlers from South Wales had battled their way into the quarter finals of the annual contest on 22 July by beating their Cornish opponents, Werrington, by a single run. But jubilation turned to sorrow when, days later, a Werrington player complained that he had seen a road sign reading: "Welcome to Usk, Historic Market Town".

The Cricketer magazine, which runs the annual contest, decided that the road sign the town council, town mayor and town charter were grounds for expelling the side.

Residents of Usk (population 2,187) argued that the magazine's own entry criteria, allowing rural communities with fewer than 3,000 to play, meant they were a village and should be reinstated.

When pleas to The Cricketer's owners, Ben and Belinda Brocklehurst, fell on deaf ears, the Usk members felt they had no choice but to turn to British justice to restore fair play as they saw it.

But Judge John Weeks ruled that Mr and Mrs Brocklehurst were right to act as they did - and left Usk facing a legal bill of thousands of pounds.

Delivering his judgment, Judge Weeks said: "It is like cricket and the umpire's decision is final. The Cricketer is right to take into consideration factors such as the town council and mayor in deciding eligibility. Not every rural community which satisfies the competition rules is eligible to compete. One has to bear in mind that the object of the competition is to promote village cricket."

The legal team gathered by Usk, which had entered the village contest every year since 1993 but never made it to the final at Lord's, had tried to argue that rule four of the championships allowed the community to enter.

The rule states that teams that hail from rural communities surrounded on all sides by open countryside and with no more than 3,000 inhabitants are eligible to play.

Mrs Brocklehurst said she hoped village cricket would now return to gentlemanly normality. "We could not allow Usk to continue to play once we knew they were a town. Werrington will go through to the next round, and we hope there will not be any more unpleasantness."

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