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Secretary's Report for Season 2007

The weather badly affected the season's cricket with most clubs losing four League games. Darwen suffered most having seven games abandoned and seriously affecting their chances of taking the Championship.
The two Cup Competitions were also affected with a higher number of games either rescheduled or decided on run rate or bowl outs. The effect on the Clubs income was significant.

The wet weather has identified grounds whose drainage systems are either inadequate or require overhauling. The condition of the ground not only affects matches at weekends but all weekday activities, practices, junior matches etc. If the pattern of the weather is changing, it is essential that funding for drainage systems becomes a priority at all levels of cricket. Without a ground every thing stops! The groundsmen and their helpers have had a very difficult time in getting grounds fit for play and it is appropriate that their work should be highlighted and that they should be thanked for their efforts.

Leyland Motors fight for survival having failed, the committee and playing members of Leyland Motors joined Leyland and Farington C.C. to form a new club playing at Fox Lane as Leyland C.C. The town of Leyland now has a strong cricket club with excellent facilities, support and thriving connections with schools and the community. There is an expectation in the League that they will soon develop into a force to be reckoned with.

The loss of Leyland Motors left us with thirteen clubs so one club did not have a fixture on each day of the season. We were hopeful that the problem would be solved for the 2008 season when Lytham applied and were accepted. However a debate arose within the Lytham Club and they finally withdrew their application.

This was very disappointing as they would have fitted in well and would have brought an injection of new thinking and ideas into the League. The League believes that promotion and relegation will further enhance competitiveness in what already is a competitive League and the League's policy to introduce promotion and relegation has been reconfirmed. If enough clubs can be attracted two divisions will be formed. Any new clubs joining the League will be fully involved in the development of a new structure.

The Championship was not decided until the last day of the season. In a tense and exciting game against Netherfield, St Annes needed ten runs off the last over of the match to win the game and become champions. They succeeded and pushed Morecambe, last year's champions, into second place. Lancaster won the Second Division with Netherfield runners up. St Annes won the Thwaites Knock Out Cup beating Kendal in the final. Morecambe beat Leyland to win the 2nd Division Cup. Darwen won the Thwaites 20/20 competition for the second season running defeating Lancaster in the final. Kendal won both the 1st Division and the 2nd Division Fair Play Trophies, which are based on the Umpires marking of teams.

Individually, in the amateurs Chris Parry of Netherfield scored most runs (724) with Lukman Vahaluwala of Preston taking most wickets (49). Justin Quint of Barrow had a noteworthy season with 41 wickets at an average of 9.61 and a strike rate of 21.44. Mark Lomas of Morecambe took most catches and Ikram Ullah of Kendal was the leading wicket keeper. In the Second Division G. Maje of Morecambe (757 runs) and Andrew Armstrong of Blackpool (55 wickets including an analysis of 10 for 44 against Fleetwood) lead the averages. The following had hat tricks; in the 1st Divison Mark Hadwin of Netherfield against Kendal and in the Second Division Peter Jackson of St Annes against Chorley and Matthew Studt of Barrow against Blackpool,

Amongst the professionals Atif Ashraf again imposed himself on the League scoring 1068 runs at an average of 106.8. This in Darwen's rain affected season. Ameer Khan of Preston was the leading bowler with 73 wickets at an average of 12.86. Pasan Wanasinghe of Barrow had a successful first season, second in the batting averages with 930 run and picking up 40 wickets.

All clubs have strong youth sections and it is noticeable that there are more younger players being selected in club 1st Xls. This is reflected in the success of our younger players at higher levels, Steven Croft (Blackpool), Tom Smith (Chorley) have contracts with Lancashire and James Anyon (Preston) with Warwickshire. Michael Baer (St Annes) has a scholarship with Lancashire. The League was well represented in the Lancashire U/19 squad that won the 2007 Inter County Competition. The League has a scouting system in place which identifies young players who are performing well in the Premier League and recommends them to the County for further coaching and consideration for representative teams. It is following the progress and development of young players that inspires coaches and gives satisfaction to all those members who give their time and effort supporting their clubs. Funding from the ECB dependent on the number of U/21 players playing in 1st Xl League matches has been a useful addition to Clubs income.

Discipline on the field continues to be good. When a player has been charged with a disciplinary offence, initially the club is asked to take its own action using the League's guidelines. If this is ratified by the League, it comes into effect immediately. If the League cannot ratify the club's action or the player appeals to the League then a League disciplinary hearing is held. Moving the initial responsibility of taking disciplinary action to the clubs has had a beneficial effect on disciplinary standards. The only hearing last season was over a problem arising from the interpretation of a procedural rule and not from any on the field behaviour.

The League needed to improve its methods of umpire assessment and decided to trial an ECB sheet circulated prior to the season. An umpires assessment committee has been formed by the Umpire's Federation. Captains were asked to complete an assessment form for each match and post the forms to the committee. The response though not complete was much better than expected, particularly as the scheme was introduced on a voluntary basis without the backing of a rule with fines etc. Problems were identified and were acted on by the umpires Committee (e.g. a misunderstanding of the fast bowling rule). The sheet was straightforward to fill in and empowered the captain to respond in a critical and supportive way without any confrontation. Experience of the trial has led to minor modifications and a decision made at the AGM to incorporate it into the rules for the coming season.

There have been a number of changes in the League Officials. John Cotton resigned as Chairman half way through the season. Norman Poole the Vice-Chairman acted as Chairman for the rest of the season and was elected as Chairman at the AGM. Tom Wilson resigned as a co-opted member of the Executive. The League hopes that Tom's experience and knowledge will still be available to the League.

John Kettlestring resigned as Web Master. John would be the first to admit that when he took over the web site that he had a lot to learn and it is a tribute to his efforts that the web site has become highly regarded and is now an essential tool in running the League. His efforts when Roger Harrison became ill kept the administration of the results and statistics going, We have become reliant on the Web Site as a source of information, communication and organising the League. John also took on the task of transferring Roger Harrison's meticulous records of each season that he was involved with the League onto the web site This provides an easily accessible source of information and pleasure for past and present players and officials. The League thanks them all in their many and different ways for their contributions to the League.

The position of Vice-Chairman remains vacant but we have been lucky that Mike Latham volunteered to take over the web site. He is keen and enthusiastic to continue the good service that John Kettlestring has given the League. We have been advised that our website is creaking at the seams and requires some updating of its programs. The heart of the web site is ECB play-cricket administration and statistics package which deals with results, averages etc which gives us a very effective and rapid results service. However there is a need to revamp other parts of the site to make it easier to use.

Once again it is extremely important to thank and highlight the commitment of all those volunteers in the League and the Clubs who give their time and effort carrying out the many tasks that enable games of cricket to be played. The League is grateful for the support and publicity that the media provides the League. Radio Lancashire and Radio Cumbria provide a service much envied in other areas of the country. The local press The Lancashire Evening Post, The Blackpool Gazette, The Westmorland Gazette and other local papers both generate and maintain the interest of their local communities in the progress of their local clubs. Gerry Wolstenholme accounts of games and his pictures enhance the website and the Handbook.

John Cooper

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