Roll on next summer!

Posted in ECB ACO

It is with a somewhat heavy heart that I greet the month of September these days since it heralds the end of another English cricket season.

My first game was a promotion-relegation dogfight between clubs who play no more than five miles apart in the Everards Leicestershire County Cricket League.

The hosts, who are somewhat notorious for poor time-keeping, were responsible for a late start and will have to suffer the consequences of whatever disciplinary measures the league management committee impose. The game meandered to a draw which, in the event, did little to help either club’s cause.

It is, of course, at this time of year when the country’s two dominant winter sports infiltrate our wonderful summer game. Northampton Saints, not for the first time, were so near and yet so far last season and kicked off their new campaign with a hard-earned but, seemingly, somewhat fortunate win at fortress Kingsholm, having been reduced, late on, to just 13 men thanks to two sin-binnings. They appear to have recruited well over the summer, so could this be their year.

Northampton Town, the 'Cobblers', who very nearly lost their Football League status last season, have made a reasonable start and, who knows, could be looking up, not down, as the season progresses. They have a good manager who has plenty of experience at this level and better. I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

Northants, on the other hand, who lost out on promotion to Division One of the County Championship at the death last time round, have endured a miserable season. They have been plagued by inconsistency all season and it remains to be seen whether the departure of local-boy David Capel will herald a new era.

Leicestershire Over-60s' indifferent season ended in typical fashion with a lacklustre display against their Northumberland-Durham counterparts who they were meeting for the very first time. This game was played on a lovely ground in York, which was considered to be an equidistant venue.

Back on home soil an ill-tempered league match followed in which the overall standard of fielding by both sides, even allowing for a hot day, left something to be desired and included the unenviable bowling figures of 2-0-41-0.

My Rutland League game the following day was, by contrast, a quiet affair with a distinct end-of-season air about it; Barnack consolidating their Division 1 status, despite coming second on the day.

An enjoyable Saturday league match was followed by a journey along the A14 to Godmanchester who were far too strong for a depleted nine-man Medbourne side who could, nonetheless, take some encouragement from the performance of a 14 year-old leggie, who I first noticed in an under-11 county match, who withstood the onslaught and deservedly took two wickets.

Forty eight hours later I stood in the traditional end-of-season fixture between Leicestershire Gents and The Forty Club which, for me, was a throwback to the old days in that it was a timed game with not less than 20 overs to be bowled in, so to speak, the last hour.

My last Saturday League appointment of the season featured a game in which the visiting captain was dropped five times, his opening partner was, at one time, the sixth ranked squash player in the world and the host’s wicketkeeper was the son of Peter Moores.

A local under-13s cup final fell victim to the weather before a late call resulted in me standing in the Spitfire National Over-60 Championship Final at Oakham for the second consecutive year.

Cheshire, champions for the last two years, proved too strong for Northants on the day and were worthy winners. Two well-balanced teams promised a close game but Cheshire’s greater all-round strength and experience prevailed – when is someone going to topple them?

Incidentally, included in the Cheshire ranks was Bob Yardley, son of Norman, the former Cambridge University, Yorkshire and England batsman whose highest Test score, a little research revealed, was a tantalising 99.

This appointment was a fitting end to my season and the following morning I was able to dwell upon the fact that, despite all the cancellations, I had officiated in over 65 matches, in 18 different competitions at grounds in 10 different counties.

Having survived the wettest summer for more than 100 years, I can now contemplate a close season of walking, listening to live jazz and following the fortunes of Northampton Saints who have enjoyed their best start to a season for many years with four straight wins.

Oh yes, and I’ve already received invitations to three cricket dinners to be enjoyed over the next two months.

Here’s to next April...