Last weekend in the Championship Hallam maintained their 15 point lead, Elsecar and Wath recovered from last week’s disappointments to win the battles amongst the following pack, and Whiston and Tickhill joined them, so that now four clubs are separated by just two points.
Darfield had hoped to keep second place but crashed out at home to Wath, thanks to a crucial third-wicket partnership between Rob Barlow (53) and Will Cooper (45) enabling Wath to reach 160, before bowling Darfield out for 84 as Sam Whitlam took 4-9.
Elsecar took full advantage of Darfield’s slip, comfortably overtaking Conisbrough’s very respectable 221, in which everyone got starts but none more than Michael Blakemore’s 40. Elsecar’s Paul Cummins (89) and Ainsley Swallow (82*) showed them how, with a match-winning partnership of 131 to take them to 222-4 with three overs to spare.
Tickhill similarly overwhelmed Kexborough, who were going along well until Alex Rowland took 4-8 in five overs. Their 152 proved too few and Tickhill motored through, winning by six wickets.
Whiston had an even more comfortable stroll against Rotherham Town, James Martin (50), Matthew Burton and Richard Spurr getting some welcome batting practice in 222-9 and Tom Bolland took 5-30 as Rotherham disintegrated for 70.
Meanwhile, at the top, Hallam predictably beat Collegiate by seven wickets, Joe Cooper taking 4-34 in Collegiate’s 138-9 and Will Hale 52 as Hallam won with 17 overs to spare. And, at the bottom, Houghton Main bowled Coal Aston out for 122 (Tom Griffin 64, Callum Honeyman 6-31) then knocked off the runs for two down in 19 overs (Khurram Javed 76*).
Next week, the interesting clashes will be the two resurgent teams, Houghton Main v Tickhill, and the two big scorers: Conisbrough v Whiston. Could be fireworks!
A fortnight ago, I wrote about the importance of keeping cricket visible in schools and clubs and on television, so that youngsters experience the rich complexity of the game and the excitement of being absorbed in it. The ECB has a current campaign – Get the Game On – which is all about encouraging clubs and players to focus on playing rather than cancelling and to raise the profile of the game in their communities.
There’s a certain irony in this, given that it was the same ECB that sold its birthright on the national coverage of cricket by the BBC to Sky for vast millions which has enabled them to fund campaigns such as these to attract children and young adults who once watched Test cricket on’t telly all summer for free and then went out to imitate Freddie or Viv in the streets and parks.
This week we also saw another use of the money – the Chance to Shine scheme – where the ECB, working with clubs, sends coaches in to primary schools to run cricket sessions with Y5 children, culminating in fantastic Kwik Cricket soft ball tournaments, run by clubs, where schools compete to send boys’ and girls’ team champions to the Sheffield finals. We had four schools and 130 children at our club this week loving the sunshine and a day out and their enjoyment of what was for so many a new sport, with hopefully some coming back regularly to join our juniors.
I’ve heard some clubs complain that schools don’t send them ready-formed players anymore, but what are they doing? Schools are the centre of our communities. Clubs must work with them to raise not just their own profile, but that of the game itself.