As Wirksworth and Middleton CC’s three county league teams paddle their way into the second half of the season, some observations on the first half might seem timely.
First some statistics. The teams have supposedly played 35 matches but, of these, nine have been abandoned with scarcely a ball bowled. The worst hit has been the 1st XI with four out of 12 games lost.
Six further matches have been draws, including the recent tied game enjoyed/suffered by the 2nd XI.
The three teams have together won 17 of the rest with just three defeats.
In addition, the 1st XI (with seven wins and no defeats) has won two cup matches to reach the quarter finals of the Bayley Cup.
I don’t recall, in my association with the club, such a successful sequence as this.
The 1st XI, a decently talented squad, has been boosted by the return of Dinesh de Silva, who featured so prominently in the 2010 promotion season.
It may be remembered, however, that due to visa delays, the team had already won five straight league games (after the first two weeks were washed out) before de Silva’s arrival.
Paul Hindmarch, signed initially as a temporary replacement for the charismatic Sri Lankan – but now on an extended contract – has been an excellent addition with both bat and ball.
Several players, having rejoined the club this season or last, have made their mark.
Alex Park, a wicket keeper/batsman; Andy Malia-Barlow, a batsman who provides a spin bowling option; Jack Allen and Jimmy Redfern, both of whom can bowl and bat but whose opportunities to make significant contributions have so far been limited. All four have strengthened the squad considerably.
Of the others, one must mention Stephen Lowe. Less eye-catching perhaps than the faster bowlers, Lowe has been terrific this season.
He always takes his 30-plus wickets (he already has 20 this ‘summer’) but equally important is an economy of rate of fewer than three runs an over.
Last season, he was the only bowler in the Division 3 averages (as published in the league year book) to do so.
In a season like this, runs are less plentiful with sides never quite sure what constitutes a good score.
180 this year is often the equivalent of 250-plus in drier, sunnier weather.
Hopefully, if we get any improvement, batsmen will be able to find more fluency and consistency.
There have been plenty of 20s and 30s by players of all three teams which were worth a lot more than if on truer, faster pitches. It would be invidious to pick out just a few of these and, likewise, the bowling in the 2nd and 3rd XIs has been a combined effort with everyone chipping in with vital contributions.
Whether the 2nd and 3rd XIs can maintain their push for promotion (the 2nds are in second place and the 3rds are top) depends on a number of factors.
There is no doubt that if they can field their strongest teams consistently and play at their best, they are good enough.
Their problem is that the demands on younger players increase considerably at this time of year. School and possibly family holidays; the divided loyalties as far as sport is concerned.
As the football season approaches,it is inevitable – however regrettable to us ‘crusties’ – that some players will be unavailable for some matches.
The priority for the club is for the 1sts to maintain their lead in Division 3 and secure promotion but it would be useful as well if the divisional gap between them and the other sides wasn’t increased.