Howzat! We're 150 not out!

IT HAS survived two world wars, the burning down of its pavilion and even had to contend with an attack from local moles but Dunnikier Cricket Club is still in bat as it reaches 150 not out this year.

The Kirkcaldy cricket club, recognised as one of the oldest in Scotland, has suffered a troubled past none more so than in the last 12 months when an attack by vandals left the club without a home.

But resilient club members vowed to fight on and are now gearing up for an extra special 2006 as Dunnikier plans to mark its 150th anniversary with a series of special events.

Stuart Ritchie, the club's official 150th organiser, told the Press: "We are all very proud to be leading Dunnikier into its 150th year. We've had to endure a few setbacks but it has brought us closer together and we now have more resolve to make sure that not only is 2006 special, but every year is."

The club traces its origins to a night in May, 1856, when local lads approached James Townsend Oswald, master of Dunnikier House, to ask if they could practice on his ground.

Mr Oswald agreed, and cricket in the town started, although it would be the following year before a game was actually played on what is now known as Dunnikier Park.

Only World Wars have prevented the playing of the game over the past 150 years. However, after the end of the Second World War in 1946, molehills on the pitch prevented the club from resuming at Dunnikier and it had to move to Beveridge Park for a period.

By the 1960s with car ownership ever increasing, the team used each other's transport to get to games and by the last two decades of the 20th century they had joined the East of Scotland League.

In recent years, the club has struggled to find players and it suffered a devastating blow in April last year with the burning down of its pavilion.

But Mr Ritchie hopes that the 150th birthday celebrations will help steer the club towards a brighter future, and also increase interest in cricket in and around the Kirkcaldy area.

"We see our 150th as an opportunity to send a message out to people that are interested in cricket," he said. "There's a new awareness of the game through the Ashes Series on Sky television and marketing all over the world.

"We know that cricket in the Edinburgh area has had an awakening and we are hoping we can emulate that here in Kirkcaldy. "We want people to come along, of any age. They've got me playing and I'm 56 years young!

"But we particularly want more young people to take up the sport because there is not enough youth coming through the ranks. Cricket is not on the agenda in schools and that gives us a problem when it comes to recruitment.

"We are giving young people an opportunity to get off the streets and join us over the summer months at practice."

The first training session will take place on Sunday, March 5, indoors at Kirkcaldy High School, costing 5 per adult and 1 for school children.

Practice will continue up until the beginning of the cricket season in late April, and this will be followed by the club's four major 150th anniversary events.

The first is in May when a team of ex-pats from Norway, managed by Kirkcaldy man and former Dunnikier player Lindsay Ritchie will visit Fife for three days, and take part in an 150th anniversary match at Dunnikier.

Then in June, the club plans to host the first Fife 20-20 cricket competition for the Dunnikier 150th Trophy. It is hoped the competition can become an annual event.

During June there will also be a summer ball for players, ex-players and new members with the theme of 'Cricket on the Village Green, 1856 - 2006'.

September will see the club host its annual presentation night while the following month an 150th Sportsman's Dinner will take place at the Dunnikier House Hotel – a venue the club has kept close connections with over its 150 year history.

Mr Ritchie added: "This is a celebration of cricket not only in Kirkcaldy but in Fife as a whole, and we hope our 150th anniversary year can help secure the sport a more prominent position within the Fife sporting clique."