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16th December 2020 Recreational

2020 in Review – Grassroots Cricket

Last year presented unpredictable and immensely tough challenges for our game but in a time of national crisis the cricket community across Durham worked hard to deliver a season of cricket which made us appreciate our great game more than ever before.

The 2020 season was packed with remarkable stories on and off the pitch, we celebrated cricket for the sport itself and for the extraordinary people involved in it too.

We witnessed heart-warming gestures from across all levels of the game.

Durham’s Ben Stokes wore the name of a local doctor – Dr Vikas Kumar – on his training shirt ahead of the first Test of the season – a specialist in anaesthetics and critical care at Darlington Memorial Hospital and a keen amateur cricketer. Mark Wood recognised local hero Susan Bainbridge – a volunteer at the North East Ambulance Service who in her spare time runs Zumba classes for older people throughout Teesdale.

At local level, clubs and their players, parents and volunteers recognised key workers in numerous ways. Some clubs volunteered to become foodbank collection sites, others prepared and gave out school meals as clubs supported their local communities during a year like no other.

Cricket stepped up, stood at the heart of communities and became more than a game.

After the longest wait for the start of the season, cricket became the first team sport to return at grassroots level – a fact we were immensely proud of.

A game often regarded as traditional repositioned itself and adapted quickly to the restrictions imposed by the pandemic to deliver opportunities for play and competition for everyone in a safe way.

Senior and junior cricket leagues met the challenge of adapting to deliver a competitive season.

Despite the circumstances, there were some emblematic successes for the female game for Durham at both recreational and elite level.

Club groudstaff played a vital role throughout the entire year, putting in considerable time and effort to ensure ground facilities were maintained and ready for play, when the green light was given.

The game pulled together for cricket to happen in 2020. Thank you to everyone who played a part in a challenging time.

Women’s and Girls’ Cricket

Despite the short season, women’s cricket recorded another fantastic year for growth at recreational level across our county, with women’s teams doubling in numbers.

The highlight of the season was the selection and inclusion of four Warriors players to the Northern Diamonds side in their 2020 campaign, which ended with the team getting to the final of the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy.

At recreational level, women’s teams across Durham increased from six in 2019 to 12 in 2020 to mark last season as the most successful yet for growth.

At the beginning of the year a Durham representative team of 14 girls travelled to the United Arab Emirates to compete in the Gulf Cup and in a friendly three-match T20 series against UAE Women, becoming the first female team to have represented Durham Cricket in competitions in the UAE.

The squad, involving talented cricketers from Durham, Northumberland and Cumbria, returned home with a trophy after winning the T20 series against UAE Women.

Junior Cricket

The season was opened by the DCB Junior League’s Under-11s on Sunday, 12 July.

The Junior League’s rules and formats remained the same as divisions were given total flexibility on whether they wanted to play competitive or friendly games.

Although there were concerns around number of player and teams, clubs didn’t lose any players.

Despite the shorter summer, by enlarge it was a successful season, with junior cricket being played at every age group from under-11 all the way through to under-18.

Senior Cricket

North East Premier League

The North East Premier league ran a season of no promotion and relegation, with reduced length of matches and less travel for teams.

The NEPL arranged 1st and 2nd competitions for Saturdays, Academy 3XI competitions for Sundays, a Midweek League and an Under-15s knockout cup. All cricket was organised on a geographical basis to minimise travel for players, umpires and spectators.

Most matches were played under the ‘Banks’ banner who continued to provide sponsorship. Similarly, Dukes also continued to sponsor the League in 2020.

As the season drew to a close, Chester-le-Street defeated Burnmoor in the Banks Salver final, Tynemouth defeated Willington in the Banks Bowl Plate final, Philadelphia defeated Crook Town in the Banks Bowl Plaque final, Gateshead Fell won the Midweek League and Hetton Lyons defeated Tynemouth in the U15 final. Four finals had to be postponed and will be played at the beginning of the 2021 season.

Durham and North East Cricket League

2020 should have been the inaugural season for the newly formed Durham & North East Cricket League following two years of hard work to merge the Durham Cricket League and North East Durham League into a centralised league comprising of six divisions. Unfortunately, the pandemic put pay to those plans, but we were delighted that we were able to come up with a robust Covid response strategy as an exec lead by Gregg Arundel and Alan Mustard, who’s time and dedication ensured that we were the first league in the North East to get back playing once restrictions allowed.

Teams across the six DNECL divisions were placed into regional cup competitions to play in 40 over per side games with competitive cricket being something that was placed high on the impotence list.  The Frank Lees Cup was contested by clubs regionalised from divisions 1 & 2 and was won by Brandon CC 1st XI who beat Mainsforth CC in an exciting final. The RH West Cup final was scheduled to be played at South Shields Cricket club, Langley Park & Bearpark CC vs Beamish & East Stanley CC, but sadly postponed until April 2021. Division 5 & 6 teams played in the Robert Dunnett Cup and this competition was won by Brandon CC 2nd XI who prevailed over Kimblesworth. The final competition was for the midweek 3rd XI clubs who played for the Arthur Lumley Cup and this completion was won by Ryhope CC in another exciting game against Dawdon CC.

2020 was a very tough year for all and whilst the DNECL were delighted to get some cricket in, they did mourn the loss of a number of league members who will not be forgotten and will always be in thoughts. DNECL Chairman Steve Thexton is hopeful of a much better 2021 for all league clubs, the members and players and is looking forward to getting the first full season of the Durham & North East Cricket League underway.

Northumberland & Tyneside Cricket League

The Northumberland and Tyneside Cricket League adapted some of its match play rules to allow for the circumstances – games were reduced by 10 overs an innings and competitions were restructured to reflect geography and reduce travel.

The league operated in 10 Divisions during the 2020 season and the winners were: Morpeth, Swalwell, Tynedale, Blyth, Newcastle City 2s, Kirkley, Greenside, Blagdon Park 2s, Monkseaton and Morpeth 2s.

There were playoffs involving some of the Division winners, with the playoffs winners being Swalwell and Blyth.

Players were grateful for the opportunity to play cricket as they displayed flexibility and tolerance in adapting to the revised playing conditions despite the challenges of adapting ‘habits of a lifetime’ such as the way they had to run between the wickets when batting,

The shorter season inevitably meant fewer than usual number of games, but nearly all clubs were able to enter their usual number of teams. The weather was also co-operative with fewer than average number of games rained off.

The Northumberland and Tyneside Cricket League waived club fees for the season to help out clubs with a small gesture during a difficult year.

North Yorkshire and South Durham Premier League

The NYSD planned a number of contingency plans in mid-March, enabling the league to start their season quickly and swiftly on the 18th July, ensuring a full half season with league cricket in the usual format, the most of any Premier League in the country, as well as an intensive cup programme for all levels running through every evening from the second half of July to mid-August, plus a junior offering.

By the end of the season nine league championships and seven cups were completed.

The most obvious effect of Covid-19 on NYSD Premier Division cricket was that overseas players were unable to enter the country. Clubs employing professionals based in the UK were thus handed an advantage, one which factored heavily in the decision to forego promotion and relegation in the 2020 season.

Five clubs kept themselves in the hunt for the Premier title until deep into the season, as any of the five could have won the championship on the final day. It was Richmondshire who prevailed, and then went on to take their first ever League/Kerridge Cup double.

In the Teesside University Macmillan Cup T20, Hartlepool emerged victorious in the final at Stokesley.

Darlington and District Cricket League

The Darlington and District Cricket League were delighted to Get the Game On when restrictions allowed in July last year, which was the 60th year of the league and with a one-year restructure, the league had two divisions of 11 and 12 teams respectively and also played mid-week league cups successfully.

There were a few tweaks with reduced overs, no promotion or relegation and implementation of Government and ECB Covid Regulations but it led to a very successful season played in great and grateful spirit.

The D&DCL is hoping to be back to three Divisions with 30 teams in 2021 and wishing for a glorious summer.

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