10 years of LMS cricket

2015-03-01 15:48

Johannesburg - It is not an Internet start-up, the latest fitness craze, or even the makings of a global fast food empire. Rather, cricket is its forte, but not quite as you know it.

The rules of Last Man Stands (LMS) cricket differ from the cricket you are used to seeing on television or at your local field.

These include teams being eight-a-side versus the typical 11, overs are five balls each instead of six, only one extra ball is permitted an over for wides and no-balls and a second wide or no-ball in an over is punished with three penalty runs instead of one.

Also, the last batsman remaining may bat on their own if the rest of their team has been dismissed.

This rule is called "last man stands", the colloquial origin of the organisation's name.

"It was in 2005 in London," says Bjorn Briggs, 37, founder and a consultant at Last Man Stands (LMS).

"Wayne Greve and myself set it up there. We'd just finished our club season and, they're so many expats out there, we organised a triangular between old boys from KES, Jeppe, and St Stithians.

"T20 (cricket) had just hit the markets so we organised an 11-a-side 20/20 and the day was well received by the guys and everyone had a good time, and one of the players said 'We should do this every weekend'."

Ten years later, LMS operates in the majority of South Africa's major urban centres, across England, all over Australia, as well as in New Zealand, Bangladesh, and even the United States, showing growth any business would envy since launching in South Africa almost eight years ago.

Starting from a base of 128 players, they now have around 5000 active participants every week and 12 000 people in their database in South Africa alone, part of around 50 000 players worldwide.

Briggs says the rules, devised by himself and Greve, came about through "a lot of common sense", with the aim being to increase participation, and limit the length of games so they can squeeze in around four games a day per a field.

LMS also seeks to keep up-to-date statistical records of player's performances, a feature Briggs says is one of their most popular attractions. Umpires, fields, stumps and balls are also pre-arranged before teams begin their games, which take place within a league format. There are over 32 different leagues in Gauteng alone.

LMS supplies these incentives through teams paying either upfront to be part of their respective league, or on game day. The money generated through player fees is put towards the extras LMS provides.

"I think it's grown because there's a niche market where you don't have to join a club. It's only two hours of your day and you get the extras. You don't have to worry about the ball, the field, we try to take care of it," he says.

The first time LMS advertised was in Australia last year, with Briggs suggesting that their impressive growth is primarily based on word of mouth, as it offers the opportunity to the many former school and varsity players who dropped out of cricket after they completed their studies to once again play the game.

This year will see LMS host its fourth World Championships, taking place at the world renowned Kensington Oval in Barbados.
"We're really excited about that. It's our fourth World Champs and it's also our 10 year anniversary of running LMS," Briggs says.

"Wayne Greve was introduced to Joel Garner, who's the president of the Barbados Cricket Association (BCA) via one of his contacts at the England Cricket Board (ECB). Wayne still heads up the UK operation and they are supported by the ECB."

The BCA have been "incredibly supportive" in getting behind the event, which will feature a total of 32 teams from around the world. Twelve come from LMS's different regions, while 20 local teams are expected to take part.

Locally, LMS also hopes to further their relationship with established cricket structures in South Africa, such as the Gauteng Cricket Board, which Briggs hopes to work with in the future, with around half of LMS's player base plying their trade in South Africa's economic heartland on a weekly basis.

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