Bicester & North Oxford, once one of the leading teams in Oxfordshire, have withdrawn their first team from the top flight of the Cherwell League following a mass exodus of players.

Eleven playing members, including the first XI captain Darryl Woods left the club, for varying reasons during the close season.

Only two regulars from the 2009 1st XI – both youngsters – are still with the club, leaving them unsure about their ability to field a competitive side in Division 1 this year.

As a result, the club requested that the league allow them to withdraw their first XI from Division 1 and to continue with their first, second and third teams in Divisions 4, 7 and 9 respectively.

The league’s executive agreed to this request.

Bicester & North Oxford were formed in 1996 by the merger of Bicester Town and North Oxford, who had to leave their St John College ground in the city.

For a number of years the new club played in Division 1 of the Home Counties Premier League.

But in recent years they have slipped down the cricket pyramid. Bicester chairman Rob White said: “It was obviously a difficult decision to take.

“While this is obviously a disappointing development, we can now look forward to the future with a renewed sense of optimism.

“The club enjoyed some hard-won and notable successes last year, with two of our senior sides securing promotion.

“Division 4 is exactly the right level for the team. It would have done neither us nor our opponents any good by staying in Division 1.”

The first XI, will be captained by Steve Conway, who led the second team in 2009.

White said: “The talented crop of youngsters making their way into and up through the senior sides is really exciting and their continued development is our top priority.

“The 2010 season promises to be one of competitive and highly enjoyable cricket for all our sides.

“We are fully committed to becoming a stronger and more competitive club and continuing our proud association with the Cherwell League.

“The club have a thriving youth section. We welcome any new members who would like to take part in organised cricket across all age ranges supported by qualified coaches.”