AS the bats and balls are stored for the long winter, Westmorland League historian JOHN GLAISTER reflects on a vintage season for the competition.

PROBABLY not since that Halcyon post war cricketing season of 1948, when county cricket grounds were packed to the gunnels and Don Bradman's 'invincibles' were in town, has the summer game so dominated the sporting headlines.

It is the hope of many throughout the country, this will rekindle a resurgence of participation in the sport at grass roots level which has suffered a nigh-on 29 year decline resulting from massive societal changes.

The structure of cricket resembles a giant pyramid with 'team England' at its apex and village cricket as its foundation. The Westmorland Cricket League (WCL) through its members is the personification of that base and it too had an enthralling 2019.

Although the pre-season prediction of Carnforth and Westgate finishing first and second ultimately proved to be the case, it was Milnthorpe who headed the table at the half way point with Arnside and Shireshead in close attendance. With Carnforth's strike bowler Darren Nelson restricted with a shoulder injury, a chink appeared in their armour. Enter Tom Parkinson who assumed the mantle, finishing with 62 wickets and the thanks of his grateful captain Bradley Hoyle.

Carnforth's success as a team is forged on the runs of the left. Handed opening pair of Chris Parry and Ryan Nelson with 839 and 731 respectively. Their target as a club for next year is simple. To become only the third team in WCL history to seal a hat trick of division one championships.

As for Milnthorpe, their flame only briefly flickered, but in James Parkinson they have a quality bowler and enthusiast that bodes well for the club. His engaging commitment is what all grass roots clubs need to survive.

For the last 20 years the Westgate Club have proved time and time again how hard they are to shake off. They pursue glory relentlessly. Two late season draws when Carnforth won, baulked them this year. After Sam Conroy's 8-42 at Trimpell, the home sides last pair which included 67-year-old Peter McDermid held on.

An excruciating loss to Shireshead in the penultimate game finally laid the season to rest.

Sam Conroy's namesake Dylan, had a brilliant season in a team where players from number one to 11 rarely have a poor one. His 733 runs was complemented by Zac Buchanan's 60 wickets.

As for unsung Trimpell they too deserve medals for their fighting spirit. A gold one in Captain James Lambert's case. The two nail biting losses against Burneside and Sedgwick were sickeners but driving his troops on to the end. two wins in the last two games pulled off an escape Harry Houdini would have bee proud of.

Those two wins consigned Holme to division two next year, though it could easily have been Silverdale. Both Clubs share one thing in common. As units they can't bat. Three figures always seems a long way off. Holme though have the outstanding Lee Barnes in their midst. The name 'Barnes' and Holme CC are indivisible as is the name 'Mason' and Silverdale CC.

It was Carnforth's ability to close-cut games that ultimately wore down the opposition. Nevertheless several clubs will feel they short-changed themselves. At Arnside, who finished third, this has become a familiar end-of-season lament since their 2013 championship. Their small playing field ground tends to produce a feast or famine of a game. A feast if the wicket is dry, a famine if wet. This can work as much against the home team as for. It rarely disturbs Adam Richardson though, who bagged another 708 runs including three tons. The unavailability of players didn't help the cause, but when Adam Cowperthwaite was able to play he was a bowling match winner. As the top finishing Cumbria team, Arnside will be offered the opportunity of leaving the WCL to play in the second tier of the Cumbria League under a pyramid system arrangement. This would involve travel to places like Seascale.

Shireshead had an in-and-out time of it with five losses, but look on-the-cusp of having a settled and winning side. Tom Jaques had a marvellous all-round season. He is a top player. Captain Dave Jack and his opening bowler Irfan Qayyum are not to be under estimated. Rumours abound that Shireshead may leave the WCL.

Heysham will be disappointed not to have capitalised on last year which ended with optimistic high hopes. Sam Calverley is another top player who scored over 500 runs and took over 50 wickets. As a batting unit, Heysham are the antithesis of Holme and Silverdale, but their bowling does not match up. In one short spell they had scores of 227. 271/6 and 198 and didn't win one. That says it all really.

When Heysham hit 271-6 on their small Carr lane ground, it was in response to a mammoth 345-6 which smashed the division one they recorded of 307. The main feature of that match was one of the most incredible one man performances in the history of the WCL. Darren Nightingale of Burneside scored 188 runs and followed up with 6-45. Only the peerless Peter Wilson of the Westgate Club has scored more in a division one game, 189no versus Arnside, at Arnside in 2011. Darren and team mate Rob Davies were in the batting vanguard, but with eight losses the bowling brought up the rear.

The contrast between the two remaining first division clubs couldn't be starker. The last time the evocative Sedgwick home ground was witness to ten first division wins was in 1999, which brought home the bacon. Only Carnforth and Westgate had more in 2019, but on this occasion the ten wins saw them finish seventh, their best finish in many a year.

In cricket, bowlers win matches and Sedgwick now have a cohort of practioners that do just that. Unimpeded by the artificial rule applicable in the other three WCL divisions, which stops bowlers bowling after their quota captain Jonny Matthews, Richard Hanson, Chris Evans and veteran Jason Dalzell flourished having been thus unshackled.

After withdrawal from the WCL of the first teams from the Windermere and Ambleside clubs there is now widespread concern as to the .... state of Warton CC first division inhabitants since 1959. The Hyning Club entered a golden era in 2004, with its recognition as a venue fit for inter-county youth games. Then the club boasted two senior elevens' and three junior teams. Their decline has been dramatic. Only one team is now fielded, but more significantly no young man from the village is a club member. This is indicative of the times, but the issue can only be addressed by clubs themselves. There is no instant panacea, but who knows. The all consuming cricketing summer of 2019 may just provide the stimulus for a pro-active surge.