THE MEMBER clubs of the Westmorland Cricket League (WCL) and its League Management Committee (LMC) get ten out of ten and a gold star for keeping alive the summer game in spite of the constraints caused by the Coronavirus pandemic. The primary aim was to keep the sport in the mind’s eye.

For once combat was secondary to continuity. Self congratulatory back slapping is well in order after mission accomplished.

It appears the general public as well as the ordinary cricketer were appreciative of the effort made by the respective clubs to play the half season after lockdown. At some games there were literally hundreds of spectators. There were none at the summers test matches. Folk seized the opportunity to be spontaneous and herd and at the same time give the WCL a real fillip.

There is an awareness of a growing divide between the haves and have not clubs in the WCL. In very simplistic terms those with an urban connection or within the hinterland of a large population area are the haves. The true villages are the have nots where the young player pipeline is drying up. There is a big difference between competition for places at the haves and looking for a body to fill a place at the have nots.

This will be one of the factors taken in consideration when discussing the experiment of limiting bowlers to 12 overs adopted for the first time in division one the WCL’s premier division. There was no compulsion for batsman to retire at say 50 which seemed somewhat strange when the whole idea of this season was to keep people involved.

What differentiates the game of league cricket from the several adulterated forms is the role of the captain. In league cricket he is in complete control. In the other forms he has to contend with bowler restrictions which limits his decision making capacity and at times his freedom to experiment (say with a developing spin bowler). To try and make one size fit all by tinkering should have no place in the principal form of the game.

The Westmorland Gazette:

Some things in the great game should remain sacrosanct. League cricket is its pure breed not a mongrel version. It ain’t broke, it doesn’t need fixing. Above all a captain should have access to his players at a time of his choosing. As bowlers win matches it is his starred bowlers who should always be available for the call to arms. If a Captain has to search the horizon to see if he has a bowler that knows a good line from a washing line then it’s game over.

The two sections of division one were dominated by the haves of the Carnforth and Westgate Clubs whose hard work on the development front was paid off. You reap what you sow. On field they play intensively and are game smart. Their bowlers are supported to the hilt and can be rotated at will by the Captain such is the depth of the resources. This luxury is the envy of some of the have not clubs who can only compete and give the opposition a game if their cream bowlers are in the side and are permitted to have maximum impact.

The usual suspects at the Lodge Quarry and Cross Hill Park grounds all came up with the goods and both witnessed standout performances by their wicket keepers. Shane Dixon at the Carnforth and Phil Harvey were major assets to bowlers, Alex Benson and Zac Buchanan respectively who were also standouts.

Carnforth and Westgate don’t play for fun. They play to win and then its fun. As for the other ten club in the strangest of strange seasons it was a case of taking any positive on offer or grasping at straws.

The Westmorland Gazette:

Robert Shepherd at Arnside bowled as well as he ever has. Mike Wills was immense at Milnthorpe holding it all together. Jonny Matthews Captain at the Sedgwick Club can justifiably dream of good times returning. So can Ben Leacock at Burnside. Jarred Collis shone at Silverdale. Dave Jack turned out some truly remarkable performances for Shireshead. At Heysham, Bare and Trimpell it was a case of grasping at straws and for the first time since joining the WCL in 1927 the Warton Club didn’t win a game of cricket. Things can only get better for Warton in 2021 when all parties will be desperate to see a fully functioning WCL. But the 64,000 dollar question remains. Will the cricket tea make comeback?

In some ways the health of any village cricket league can be gauged by the strength of its Umpires Panel. This year it was pleasing to see some former players turning up to give something back to the game that gave so much to them.