Fittingly the Westmorland Cricket League (WCL) ended last Saturday in a blaze of sunshine after six washout summers (2007-12).
The sound of ball on bat has sounded much sweeter this season in the warm. Meteorologists explain it by saying the jet stream returned to its normal summer position after years out of kilter.
The same could be said of champions Arnside. Last season was spent in the doldrums, this year they swept to the title on the back of the roaring 40s. They remained on top of the table from week one with their attacking brand of cricket. Half their games resulted in maximum 15 point wins leading to a record 250 points.
The Arnside success can be put down to two things. They are the best batting team in the league but this season they have also bowled out sides. With each win came a belief in invincibility which the one defeat against Milnthorpe failed to derail.
All members of the team made significant and at times opportune contributions. Ten of the first choice came through the club’s junior ranks and for that reason alone Arnside’s championship has been widely acclaimed. It was a victory for the village by villagers and after a seven year gap they return the Bateman Shield to Westmorland.
Pre-season punditry saw the championship being fought out by Shireshead and Forton and Milnthorpe, both having succeeded in strengthening their playing resources respectively with the acquisition of Peter Wilson from Westgate and Phil Bovis from Warton.
Statistically Wilson is the best all rounder ever to play in the WCL and since his arrival in the league in 2002 Bovis had been the class act with the bat. After sabbaticals, Shireshead also saw the return of Tony Jaques and Bob Baldwin to Milnthorpe. All looked set fair for a two horse race. Arnside obviously hadn’t read the script.
Wilson and Bovis more than did their bit in their new colours but old failings again cost their adoptive clubs. It’s 23 years since Shireshead won the title. Since then there have been times when push came to shove. Four losses proved costly.
Milnthorpe suffered just one loss but they didn’t win a game until June. This is why the big one eluded them both. Shireshead will take some succour in winning the two main knock-out trophies. The atmosphere in the Hackney and Leigh final against Westgate was electric as enmity surfaced.
In their 150th year Milnthorpe have the runners-up spot and the Third Division Cup to add to their honours. Neither of the two captains, Paul Yates nor Lee Illingworth, will be devastated.
The two clubs who dominated the noughties experienced changed days but finished the season reflecting positively. Westgate further suffered with the absence of David Lord and inconsistent availability but captain Andrew Hill rose above adversity with a maiden century against Bare and took five wickets against Milnthorpe. He also won the Tower Shield. The future at Westgate lays in youngsters like Dylan Conroy.
Since their hat-trick of championships (2009-11) Warton have suffered a virtual mass extinction of the species. Seasoned and proven quality cricketer have been replaced by inexperienced youngsters. They are good enough to herald a bright future if they stick together.
Big things are expected of Jack Brown. The A teams from Westgate and Warton both lost Second Division status which speaks volumes of their plight.
Burneside and Heysham flatter to deceive. Both clubs look to be on the cusp of better days but it’s hard to say when.
Both have men for the job. Burneside’s Rob Shepherd produced one of the finest centuries ever seen on the Park Road ground, Milnthorpe. David Batty is his partner in crime. The two stand out performers at Heysham were Andrew Ideson and Graham Cassidy.
The only word to describe the respective seasons of Bare and Trimpell is dreadful. Both lost 14 games but their woes eased the pressure for those above them. Silverdale in particular can breath a huge sigh of relief. The return of Graham Dodds next season can’t come quick enough. Jack Hargreaves and Lindsay Thompson stood out with the bat.
In Mark Clarkson, Bolton-le-Sands have the next big thing. Potentially he will be the best all rounder in the WCL for years to come. Against Bare he hit 93 then took 9-25. With big hitting Graham Beaumont in their ranks Sands look to be a secure First Division outfit.
After a gap year Windermere consolidated their return with outstanding first half performances by Jono Cooper in the first half and James Crawford in the second.
The two relegated clubs will be replaced by Sedgwick and Ambleside.