Norman Poole looks back on the season and ahead to
The 2011 season was hardly blessed by good cricket weather but at least was relatively dry until the final few weeks. Some excellent cricket was played during the campaign and the finals were again fine showcase occasions.
The League's end of season presentation evening was another well organised and attended event enjoyed by all who attended. Players, officials, sponsors and supporters of the league mixed together on an evening of great conviviality and friendship. All the major awards for both divisions were sponsored and it was pleasing to see so many individual award winners present on the evening. The creation of Dream Teams for both divisions has created a great deal of interest and this year we had additional awards with for the outstanding Young Players of both divisions and an award in recognition of Outstanding Services to the League.
David Heywood was a worthy recipient of the latter award after deciding to hang up his bat after a notable career with the Lancaster Club. David's son Jamie suffered serious head and chest injuries during an accident at work just before the start of the season. The League community rallied around the family and provided support and comfort at a difficult time. It was wonderful to see Jamie battle through back to fitness and the Twenty20 Cup was re-named in his honour; it was a proud moment when Jamie was on hand to present the cup to the winning side.
The League was also able to maintain its sponsorship portfolio and was delighted to retain the commitment of its main sponsors for the 2012 season; no mean feat during the difficult economic times we are experiencing.
On the field the season was notable for the championship success of St Annes and the successes of Leyland and Kendal Cricket Clubs. Under the shrewd leadership of Andy Kellett St Annes edged out Leyland's challenge to lift the Division One title for the fourth time in seven seasons, a fine achievement.
Leyland, the defending champions, had to be content with runners-up spot but gained consolation by defeating Kendal in a thrilling, low-scoring Readers Cup final before a large crowd at Fox Lane. Kendal won the Twenty20 Cup and progressed in the national competition, before unluckily losing at home to Hyde in a regional final which was witnessed by a large crowd.
In Division Two Leyland enjoyed a fine season as Ian Farrington marked his first season as Captain by leading his side to the double. Leyland beat off the challenge of Chorley and Blackpool to ensure the league title on the penultimate weekend of the season; then they beat Fleetwood in the Readers Cup final before another well attended final crowd at Broadwater.
The league was invited to play the MCC and the inaugural fixture took place at Kendal Cricket Club in July. An under-21s side, led by Netherfield's Alex Atkinson represented the league superbly and pulled off a tremendous victory over an experienced MCC team. The event was a big success and it is hoped the fixture will be an annual one. Arrangements are already in place to stage the 2012 fixture at Carnforth Cricket Club.
During the season it was again noticeable that the outcome of games was never predictable and on their day any team in the league could beat another. Again, many young players were given their opportunity to play a good standard of cricket and participate fully in games. Of the many tremendously exciting prospects in the league Darwen's Alex Davies is arguably the stand-out; he was chosen for the elite England U17s squad and made his Lancashire ListA debut during the season. Leyland's Luis Reece featured regularly for the Unicorns in the CB Pro40 competition and together with Barrow's Liam Livingstone and Davies played in the Lancashire Second XI that reached the final of the Second Eleven Trophy.
Several Northern League players also played with distinction for Cumberland in the Minor Counties Competition including Jonathan Miles (Barrow), Chris Williams (Morecambe), Richard Gleeson (Blackpool), Alex Atkinson (Netherfield) and Ikram Ullah (Morecambe).
Two players who moved onto county cricket from the Northern League, Chorley's Tom Smith and Blackpool's Steven Croft both had the distinction of being members of the Lancashire side that lifted the County Championship for the first time outright since 1934, a magnificent achievement. Lancashire's success brought joy and pride to cricket lovers throughout the County.
The league's proven record of developing young players was recognised when the Lancashire Colts side competed in the league for a second season. Cricket Director Mike Watkinson and his staff were delighted by the way the Colts side was welcomed by all member clubs and the excellent environment in which they able to monitor their young players and I am glad to report that the Colts side will again compete in the league in 2012.
Rob Cairns, the Chief Executive of Furness Building Society is a tremendous supporter of cricket and the Society were valuable main sponsors of our league competition. We were delighted that they will continue their sponsorship in 2012. Rob thoroughly enjoyed his involvement in the league and will have more time to attend games during 2012 and beyond as he has taken a well-deserved retirement.
Neil Pullen, representing Readers Cricket Balls has also been a huge supporter of our league and his company supplied the cricket balls used in the league throughout the summer. As well as being subsidiary sponsors of the league, Readers sponsored the two main cup competitions and we were blessed by good weather for the finals at Leyland and Fleetwood. Both clubs are to be commended for the way they made the arrangements for the finals; Neil was again impressed by the way that both games were staged and by the excellent cricket on display. We are delighted that Readers will continue their valuable sponsorship of the league in 2012.
The Twenty20 competition has grown in stature in the last few years and after a series of exciting group games the four finalists converged on Morecambe for what was, at the second attempt, a highly successful Finals Day. After rain cut short the first attempt to stage the event it was a case of second time lucky with Kendal emerging as winners of the competition after a hard-fought final against Darwen.
League vice-chairman Mike Latham kindly sponsored the Twenty20 competition and an award for Outstanding Services to the League through his accountancy firm Latham Baxendale and has reaffirmed his support for next season. Mike was again instrumental in the editorial of the league handbook which was expertly designed by Tony Hannan and his Scratching Shed Publishing team. Scratching Shed kindly sponsored the Dream Teams and the Division Two awards and have reaffirmed their support for next year. We were also grateful for the support of David Otway whose firm TWP Financial Planning sponsored the Division One Amateur Awards and Andy Sneddon of Black Dragon Badges and Promotions who sponsored the Fair Play awards. Leyland's Ian Farrington kindly sponsored two new awards to honour the Young Players of the Year in both divisions.
As chairman of the Disciplinary Committee I am determined the league continues to maintain its hard earned reputation for sportsmanship and adhering to the Spirit of Cricket. The League is determined to ensue that standards continue to be maintained in this regard.
As opposed to last season when players' behaviour was mainly excellent throughout, for some strange reason this season there has been a tremendous downturn in players' behaviour both on and off the field. Now on this topic I am not identifying clubs or individuals but speaking generally.
The use of foul and abusive language during matches, with players using this sort of action against other players whilst on the field during games, players dissenting against umpire's decisions with the use of this sort of language, players physically and verbally threatening opposition players, umpires and spectators and players damaging property through their anger and aggression.
All these unfortunate, unacceptable actions have for some reason increased this season, sometimes reported by umpires and sometimes not reported. They just come to my attention through hearsay.
I was invited to and did attend the annual meeting of umpires to tell them that all matters of ill discipline must be reported to attempt to alleviate this sort of behaviour and get it out of the league. My invitation to this meeting came from the Chairman of the Umpires who is just as concerned as I am in this regard.
Gentlemen, we are a Premier League and we all must conduct ourselves as a Premier League. The word league in my book means togetherness so let us all act like a Premier League and cut out all this bad behaviour amongst ourselves.
There are a lot of extremely nice people involved in our league, both players and others who only want to play the game fair and within the rules. But the small element that seems to strive on bringing the credibility of the league down must be stamped out and it is the responsibility of the clubs and captains to do this.
I can assure you all that I am not a soft touch and I will come down hard on any player or official that continues to discredit the league through bad behaviour and use of foul abusive language.
Please take my message back to your clubs and players and emphasize to them how this continual use of bad language and threatening actions by some towards each other can only damage the league status.
As part of the ECB directives for Premier Leagues, the system of Umpires' marks for pitches and outfields, first introduced in 2010, with each division one and two match being subject to the marking procedure continued. The data has proved most useful in highlighting areas in which we need to improve as well as those where standards are high. In addition Alan Bolton again kindly agreed to act as an assessor in the new method of assessing Umpires.
The League has continued to maintain its presence on the internet with the main league web site on the ECB's playcricket.com system and John Kettlestring's archive website again receiving a new record number of 'hits'. The League also operated a Facebook and Twitter site that were successful and results are distributed electronically to a large number of recipients after each match-day. The main website has a powerful statistics database that is used extensively by many people and is a valuable news archive. The webmaster Mike Latham was again assisted by Ian Farrington who took responsibility for the inputting of division two scorecards throughout the season. The league is indebted to their dedication in maintaining an up-to-date source of information as well as the contribution of John Kettlestring who maintains an outstanding archive website.
The League acknowledges the support of many people in ensuring that cricket takes place throughout the summer, from players, umpires, scorers, catering staff, groundsmen and administrators. We are also grateful for the support of the local media with particular mention to the Lancashire Evening Post, Westmorland Gazette, Barrow Evening Mail, Chorley & Leyland Guardian, Blackburn Evening Telegraph, Blackpool Gazette and Lancaster Guardian. Our thanks go to the local reporters and editors for their interest and dedication and to the sports editors for giving the league such prominence throughout the season. The efforts of BBC Radio Cumbria to provide match reports were also greatly appreciated by many followers of the league. It was gratifying to find BBC Radio Lancashire revived their cricket coverage with regular magazine programmes during midweek which featured the league prominently.
The other members of the executive committee will remain in post as we look forward to the 2012 season. Their dedication and support is greatly valued as we continue to set high standards and ensure that the league's great tradition is maintained and built upon.
Norman Poole, Chairman, October 2011