The premier List-A tournament of New Zealand, the Ford Trophy is back for its 50th or Golden Jubilee edition. The tournament which started in 1971-72, has travelled a long way from forty overs per side where one over consisted of eight balls to standardised 50 over aside.
In its 50th year now, the tournament has been named and renamed many times due to sponsorship reasons. The tournament started out as New Zealand Motor Corporation Knock-Out in 971-72 and remained so till 1976-77. Though the name was changed to Gillette Cup for the two seasons between 1977-78 and 1978-79, it remained knockout and continued to be so till the National Knock-Out in 1979–80, in terms of playing rules.
However, from 1980-81 to 1984-85 the competition was played in a league format with all six teams playing each other once and the top two teams playing off in a final for the trophy. The rule changed once again as from 1985-86 to 1988-89, the side on top of the league after a single round-robin were declared champion. All this while the name of the tournament remained Shell Cup due to sponsorship reasons.
From 1989-90 onwards, the semi-final and final were introduced with the top four teams making it to the semis and then the winners from those semi-finals competing in a final. It went on till 1992-93.
In 1993-94, the format changed and now teams played each other on a home and away basis, thereby playing 10 matches in the league format before qualifying for semi-finals and then finals. This format kept on till the 2008-09 season. However, in between the name of the competition was changed as Shell’s sponsorship contract ended in 2001. From 2001-02 onwards, it was known as State Shield up until 2008-09.
In 2009/10, the rules were changed once again and from that season onward, now teams play each other once (five games) followed by three randomly selected teams a second time, forming an eight-game round-robin and then play the semi-finals and final to decide the winner.
For 2009-10 and 2010-11, the league was without a sponsor and hence named New Zealand One-Day Cricket Competition. It was with the 2011-12 season that Ford has come on board as the prime sponsor of the tournament.
Into its 50th season now, the trophy has been won most by Canterbury, who were also the inaugural winners in 1971-72. Canterbury have so far won 15 titles with the latest coming in the last season 2020-21. Auckland who last won the trophy in 2019-20, have also won 12 trophies so far with the first one coming in just the second season i.e. 1972-73.
Apart from these two giants in terms of the number of trophies won, the other teams haven’t found so much success as of yet. While Wellington, Northern Districts and Central Districts have won eight, seven and six titles each, Otago, the team from the Southern Island only has two titles to its kitty with the last one coming way back in 2007-08 and the first one in 1987-88.
As far as the current season is concerned, it started on November 30, 2021, at Seddon Park, Hamilton where Canterbury beat home team Northern Districts by seven wickets. Post that only two games have been completed as the third match was washed out. In the second game, Wellington beat Otago by 13 runs while in the fourth match, Otago had their first win in the tournament as they beat Canterbury by five wickets.
The tournament is scheduled to have its semi-finals on February 27 at the John Davies Oval in Queenstown. The date and venue for the final would be decided post that.