We tried our best.
The league gave permission for games to be brought forward to the morning, if everyone agreed (groundsman, players, umpires, scorers, people doing teas etc), but for most the difficulty of re-arranging everyone’s commitments, let alone those who work on Saturday mornings, meant it was not really a starter, especially as the forecast was for the rain to start at 12.
In fact it came earlier than that, and the only match in the top three divisions that was brought forward – Wath v Hallam – was duly rained off after 16 overs, in which Hallam scored 81-3, with Nick Dymock 33* and Rob Barlow adding a further two wickets to his remarkable season.
However, some things were settled. It’s hard to argue that Tickhill are not worthy winners of the contest for the last promotion place. They have a strong, well-balanced team, have won more games (including against Hallam) than Elsecar and Wath and won the Whitworth Cup. Last year they only just missed out on promotion, by two points.
It is good to reflect however in a time of incentivised players that there are still clubs where comradeship and family loyalty (the Swallows at Elsecar, the Barlows at Wath) hold things together.
By the same token, at the bottom of the table, the demise of Rotherham Town, as a club (their first team are also bottom of the Premier), is desperately sad and all must hope they can recover. Both they and Coal Aston, their relegation partners, were seriously damaged as good players left them in the close season with all the horse-trading over the new league. They need time to regroup and rebuild.
What are we to do in the future, especially if climate change means we may have to adjust to regular wet summers? Some clubs, including the two riverside grounds Millhouses and Oughtibridge, have been unable to complete more than half their games.
Full ground cover as they have at Test Match venues is way beyond the means of everyone and even the best club roll-on pitch covers can’t keep a ground playable because the rest of the playing area quickly becomes hazardous.
The South Yorkshire League’s initiative of flexible start times might help. Often it’s a few hours of rain in the afternoon or early evening that makes it impossible to complete a game. With more accurate weather forecasting it may now be possible to save some games by starting early. It’s certainly worth exploring.
A lot of young players say that they’d prefer games to finish early anyway so they can have their Saturday evenings free.
We also need to look at making the most of games that are started but can’t be finished. In the Yorkshire & Derbyshire League, they have batting and bowling bonus points that are added to the cancellation points, so sides on top get some reward. In the new Premier, they use Duckworth Lewis.
The ECB is promoting the Get the Game On initiative to encourage clubs and leagues to think creatively with their players about the best ways of maximising opportunities to play cricket, including shorter forms of the game. It’s certainly time to talk.
Meanwhile, there’s one more week to go before cricket stops and the sun comes out. The championship may be sorted, but Division One has all still to play for, with any two of Thorncliffe, Rockingham and Hallam B still on for promotion and a similar scrap at the bottom between Shiregreen, Oughtibridge and the two Norton clubs. Fingers crossed for a good day!