It stopped raining long enough to get all the games in this Saturday, bar one at Norton Woodseats, and it was a fantastic day of contrasts. Many of the grounds were still soft despite the sunshine, so low scores were not a surprise, but Conisbrough scoring 384-4, away from home, was!
There were five other scores of 200 or more in the Championship. What will they do when the tracks are really hard and the outfields fast?
Gary Strephan of Conisbrough made 161* in 76 balls in a partnership of 261 with Nathan Smith, a mere slouch at 142, after Michael Blakemore (42) had helped dig them out of the mire of 4-2. Rotherham Town only had Tim Staveley (61) able to stop a complete whitewash but they still lost by 238 runs, not the most encouraging of starts to their first year back in the Championship.
Whiston PC , also newly promoted, by contrast looked like they’d never been gone, Danny Kemp making 63 out of 204-9 and Chris Page 4-49 as Collegiate were dismissed for 176. Henry Eldred made 47 in a promising partnership with Ben Rooke (39) but only they and Andy Simpson (31) made double figures for Collegiate. Brad Jones was the best of their bowlers with 4-65.
Elsecar looked ominous, putting last season behind them with an emphatic nine wicket win at Tickhill. Aaron Haycock (44)and Ashley Fiddler (31) battled Tickhill to 153 against the returning Shahzad Rana (3-38) and Saqib Hussain (3-42) but Paul Cummins (70*) and Ainsley Swallow (61*) swept Elsecar to victory - the first of many?
Hallam again won a very tight game, with the bowlers firmly in charge at Sandygate. Lesroy Weekes (3-20), Haider Jahangir (3-22) and Sam Woodcock (3-24) restricted Hallam to 126 but Hallam have their own restrictive bowlers and Mark Williams (4-12), Joe Cooper (3-35) and Shane Smith (also 3-35) bowled Darfield out for 100, despite a tremendous last wicket partnership of 40 between Weekes (37) and Shoaib Hassan.
Coal Aston batted well to make the third highest score of the day (223) against Kexborough. Danny Hemingway (48) and Tom Griffin (41) led a strong team performance but, unfortunately for them, Kexborough made the second highest score of the day (225-7), thanks to Adam Wiles (98) and Michael Jepps (40) to win with 11 balls to go.
And Houghton Main endured a similar fate, making 209-6 - Michael Brown batting through for 78* with Tahir Nawas (51) and Rob Jones (36*) - against Wath, who won seven down, Shawn Dyson making 102* despite Callum Honeyman taking the day’s best figures of 5-48.
So, in the Championship, two games gone, Hallam leading a very strong pack and lots of great cricket in store. Could be a really interesting season. Next week, four of this week’s winners play each other - Elsecar are at home to Wath and Conisbrough at home to Kexborough. Four others are looking for their first win - Collegiate at Darfield and Rotherham Town at Houghton Main - while Whiston are at home to Tickhill and Hallam are at Coal Aston. The table will begin to take shape.
In Division One, the strengthening of the top clubs seems to have worked its way through to their seconds as Hallam, Aston Hall and Whitley Hall seconds all comfortably beat other clubs’ first XIs – Norton Oakes, Oughtibridge and Rockingham. Newly-promoted Sprotbrough overcame an encouraging batting performance by Millhouses Works in a high-scoring game.
Roll on the summer!