Once a fixture in the touring itinerary of any visiting Test side, the CCC team has a history to match any side in the amateur game – and more often than not they’ve matched those teams stride for stride.
Take the 1961 Australian side as a prime example. Too strong for England in the five Test series that summer – when victories at Lords and Old Trafford sealed a 2-1 win for the tourists – they were taught a cricketing lesson by the CCC at Blackheath shortly after arriving in the UK, losing by eight wickets.
That remains one of the CCC’s most remarkable victories since their first competitive fixtures against the MCC at Lords in 1922.
And although modern scheduling doesn’t now allow for matches against touring Test teams – after all, it’s rare these days for matches to even take place against county sides - the role played by the CCC’s representative team is still a crucial one.
“The Conference has been running representative cricket for many, many decades,” says Simon Prodger, the managing director of the National Cricket Conference. “In its history it has played all of the Test playing nations, so almost throughout the whole life of the conference, representative cricket has been played.
“Conference cricket has remained strong – both in terms of its domestic fixture lists and also through its tours, which take place every three years or so.”
Those tours form a critical role in Conference cricket and have assumed ever greater importance since the first team jetted off to Australia in response to a request from Australian Old Collegians back in 1971.
Since then, the CCC’s global activities read like a Lonely Planet guide to some of cricket’s most well-established and far flung locations. Hong Kong, the Caribbean, New Zealand, Singapore, Dubai, Kenya, The Netherlands, Sri Lanka, South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe and Oman have all been graced by some of the best club cricketers this country has to offer.
And although the days of challenging Test sides is over, the CCC’s recent trip to the West Indies in 2015 offered Barbadian cricket lovers a timely reminder of just how competitive these touring sides often are.
A fact perfectly encapsulated by the team that took to the field for the final match of the CCC’s centenary tour. Summarised brilliantly here by Stan Nicholson in his tour report.
" So, to Kennington Oval and what a game to end on. Barbados, again bristling with talent and intent, won the toss and immediately chose to bat. We then witnessed a truly outstanding effort from CCC in the field; every bowler performed and was supported by fine ground fielding in restricting Barbados to 145 all out.
“Riley took his second 4’fer of the tour, and yet again the efforts of Wharton and Chowdhury upfront, were heroic. Barbados coach, Emerson Trottman, was a vexed man at the interval and being anywhere near the Barbados changing room was a danger to life and limb !!
“However, our response was a little to conservative and wickets began to fall with some regularity. At 70-5 skipper Yarnley was hit by a bouncer, requiring a trip to the doctors and stitches in his jaw.
“On our return to the ground, CCC were wobbling at 100-7, but Chowdhury took the long handle to Barbados’ bowling and dragged us close to the target. He was joined by Yarnley, but lost his wicket trying to hit a winning boundary, leaving us nine down and two short of the target. Our injured skipper, sensing the drama of the moment, provided the ultimate coup de grace by hitting a six over extra cover to give CCC a famous and incredible victory.”
That win will sit very nicely alongside previous prestigious victories of days gone-by but the role of the CCC is about far more than simply delivering results on the field of play.
Just ask Kent’s Imran Qayyum, who has emerged as something of a modern-day poster boy for the CCC programme in recent years.
“He’s the one that has stuck – he was a given a chance and is now building a very fruitful first class career,” says Prodger. “Imran was extraordinarily talented as a bowler but perhaps didn’t think too much about his field placings, so it helped a lot at the time that Min Patel was our coach.
“He wasn’t directly involved with Kent but he obviously had great links with the county. He helped Imran hugely and got him an invite down for trials. In the meantime Imran won our spin competition for under-21 cricketers too.
“Everything just worked out perfectly.”
Qayyum is just one of a number of high profile to have represented the CCC since its inception all those years ago – and he provides ample evidence of just how crucial and relevant this staple of the English game still is.
And as club cricket waits impatiently for its resumption in 2020, the thought of one-day representing the CCC is one that should sustain club cricketers up and down the country.