As the midway point of the 2019 Westmorland Cricket League season passes, league historian John Glaister reflects on the action so far.

Despite a very wet June, rain has played only a minor part in the Westmorland Cricket League (WCL) to date. Thus setting up a keenly anticipated second half of season with five clubs vying for the coveted ‘Bateman Shield’.

From a neutral point-of-view, however, the most pleasing sight of the summer is to see two founder members of the WCL (1894) enjoying their best seasons in years. Milnthorpe are in the mix for the title and look an all-round stronger side with the addition of Shane Dixon and Nick Lewthwaite. Phil Bovis will always score runs as will Captain, Steve Bowman and anchor man Mike Wills. But the most exciting development is the prospect of Darren Wills (son of) and James Parkinson forging an attacking bowling duo.

Nostalgics will have noticed brothers Simon and George Willacy back in the Sedgwick side but catching the eye are the ex-Burneside player Lee Tattersall, Aaron Lomas, Chris Evans, captain Jonny Matthews and in particular young batsman, Carl Bevan who looks destined for a higher plane.

The Carnforth Club sit on top of the pile at the halfway point but defending their title is by no means a given. The class acts of Chris Parry, Ryan Nelson and Uncle Darren Nelson have got good support in Jack Thompson and captain, Bradley Hoyle, but if they have an off day other teams will sense a vulnerability.

Westgate have lost four games to present including to Carnforth but they look the best equipped side to burst the Carnforth bubble with strength in depth. At the heart of the team are the brothers Zac and Craig Buchanan and Dylan, and the unrelated Sam Conroy, who regularly come up with the goods. The double hat tricks performed by Zac and Sam against Burneside is one for the record books.

Westgate are an attacking team, a mantra also adopted by the Arnside team. Captain Richard Hodgson has a devastating core of batsmen at his disposal, fronted by Adam Richardson with Mike Shepherd, Ben Lenton, Alex Davison et al in his wake. In Chris Howsley they have an understated all-rounder. Yet bowling second they too often come up short, as in the amazing draw against Burneside when the last pair denied the seasiders with an unbroken century partnership. Another one for the record books. Winning draws will not win the championship.

Lurking in the wings is the Shireshead club, who certainly have the personnel to launch a second half bid for the ‘big prize’. Captain Dave Jack and Irfan Qayyum are an impressive pair of opening bowlers supported by Joe Oliver and that fine all-rounder, Tom Jaques. Simon Fould is forever likely to turn in a nugget performance.

Heysham began the campaign with great expectations after their best First Division season in an aeon. There was even talk of a move to the Palace Shield Competition in search of sterner stuff. Their mid-table position is nevertheless surprising as Sam McClements, Sam Calverley, Andy Powers and Damien Keegan all look the part.

The once all conquering Warton Club now operates on a shoestring staff. They have been a First Division club since 1959 which is easily a WCL record and one they are determined to preserve. There are few better bowlers than Graham Crowther who hits the deck hard and surprises batsmen. His early season 7-9 was followed by 5-5. With the willow his half-brother Ricky Nelson remains evergreen. Captain Tom Barnfield is a top batsman.

Burneside began the season with scores of 39 : 18 : 02 : 27 in the first six games, a sequence to make former players wince. The recent turnaround to normality has been power driven by runs from Steven Cooper and wickets from Darren Nightingale, Chris Dixon and Paul Wilson.

Trimpell and Holme are finding First Division cricket a different animal to the second tier where the bowling is less threatening. Both have managed just one win and although Trimpell look doomed, Holme may well escape the drop because of the dismal season Silverdale are experiencing.

The say you are only missed when you’re not there. With no Paul Moffat on show to head the bowling department, the cracks are being exposed at Silverdale. With no bowling restrictions in Division One a captain could call upon ‘Moff’ at any point to restore order if matters went awry in the field. His wickets and control were central to the management of the day. Whether Captain Matthew James, with the unstinting effort of Jonny Mason, can turn matters round only time will tell. Cousin Phil Mason is also capable of winning a game.

Finally a word of congratulation to my fellow scribe and WCL advocate, Tim Mansfield, currently the league secretary. Tim’s weekly reports are doing much to keep interest in our village cricket league alive. The press are to be equally congratulated in supporting the WCL.