Exciting Westmorland Cricket League season sees Carnforth lift trophy as predicted

Chris Parry in action for Carnforth. Picture: Tony North
Chris Parry in action for Carnforth. Picture: Tony North

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 resurgance of participation in the sport at grassroots level which has suffered a nigh-on 20 year decline resulting from massive societal changes.

Carnforth's Ryan Nelson. Picture: Tony North

Carnforth's Ryan Nelson. Picture: Tony North

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 entertaining 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 grassroots 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 side’s last pair, which included 67 year old Peter McDermid, held on.

An excrutiating 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 had a poor one.

His 733 runs were 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 been 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 and indivisible, as is the name Mason and Silverdale CC.

It was Carnforth’s ability to close out 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 provide 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 Jacques had a marvellous all round season. He is a top player.

Captain Dave Jack and opening bowler Irfan Qayyum are not to be underestimated.

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 record 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 follwed up with 6-45.

Only three peerlesss Peter Wilson of the Westgate club has scored more in a Division One game, 189no away to 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 Divison clubs couldn’t be starker.

The last time the evocative Sedgwick home ground was witness to 10 first division wins was in 1999, which brought home the bacon.

Only Carnforth and Westgate had more in 2019 but on this occasion the 10 wins saw them finish seventh, their best finish in many a year.

In cricket, bowlers win matches and Sedgwick now have a cohort of practitioners 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 parlous staet 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 XIs 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.

John Glaister