STEVE Williams has stepped down as Herefordshire County Cricket Club coach after allegedly receiving threatening letters.

Williams, a former Herefordshire cricket development officer who now works for the ECB, had been appointed to the position in place of Harshad Patel who coached the side last season.

The county side begin the defence of their Unicorns Minor Counties Knock-out Trophy against Wales this Sunday and will be coached by Steve Watkins while a permanent replacement for Williams is found.

“I have received two separate letters to my home address of a threatening nature, with Birmingham postmarks, advising that I should not be coaching HCCC 1st XI,” Williams told the county’s committee.

“And with a letter like the one from [former Herefordshire CCC secretary] Ken Sharpe which appeared in the Hereford Times, I do not feel my position as 1st XI coach is viable.

“I have never come across such a situation across the 39 counties in which I work or have worked where personal safety is threatened.

“It’s not something that is commensurate with my values as a person, or indeed anywhere near the 'Spirit of Cricket', which we all have a duty to respect and uphold.”

Herefordshire CCC chairman Richard Prime said that to send threatening, anonymous letters is 'beneath contempt'.

“It’s very disappointing that we have lost the services of a coach who we believed could have made a big impact on the team," said Prime.

“We are extremely fortunate that Steve Watkins has agreed to step in to coach the side for the first match.

“Steve is held in the highest regard within the county and wider cricket fraternity and is hugely experienced as a former first-class player and a Minor Counties player with both Herefordshire and Wales.

“Steve is a top class coach and we are very grateful to him for offering his services.

“We are working towards a permanent appointment which will be made as soon as possible.”

Herefordshire have recalled Brockhampton duo Ian Bullock and Joe Crichard to the side for the match with Wales.

“Ian and Joe are exactly the sort of players we are looking for to be key members of the county side,” said cricket committee chairman Ian Macklin.

“They have a great deal of talent and are young players who have come through the county age-group squads.

“They have both already played at Minor Counties level and with the extra experience they are gaining, we believe they can be important for us.

“Burghill & Tillington all-rounder Barney Morgan, who could step into the side as a batsman or a bowler in the event of a late hitch, will be 12th man.”

The Herefordshire side will be: Matt Pardoe (captain), Liam Gwynne, Neil Pinner, Chris Whittock, David Ball, Peter Burgoyne, Joe Crichard, Ian Bullock, Dan Conway, Alex Wilkinson, Jamie McIlroy.