Cricket is possibly unique amongst sports in having a preamble to its laws setting out the “Spirit of Cricket”, defining players’ conduct and the responsibility of captains and the concept of fair and unfair play.
The Nicholas Associates South Yorkshire League make it the cornerstone of their disciplinary code because it enshrines the principle that it is the players, not the umpires, who are responsible for the conduct the game and for ensuring that it is played competitively and fairly, without unnecessary provocation or disrespect towards each other.
But it ain’t easy, especially when the weather’s bad.
At Sandygate, on Saturday, it was a big game. Two unbeaten sides, Hallam and Whiston PC, a lot of tension and an evening that brought bouts of annoying rain and battleship skies.
Whiston batted first in the sunshine, set off powerfully, lost early wickets, significantly Andy Tominson for two, but regained their composure through an excellent 65 from Danny Kemp, supported by Steve Taylor (30). Joe Cooper dismissed both just at the point when they would have been accelerating and the innings lost momentum, closing on 189 all out.
Nick Dymock (33) and Will Hale (36) gave Hallam a brisk, confident start but then came the rain and the disruption and the mood of the game changed – Whiston, frustrated, bowling with a wet ball, going slower and slower. Hallam frustrated by stops and starts and delays, striving to pick up the pace.
It was tough but with darkening skies, Alex Hughes and Mark Williams got going and drove Hallam to 190-4 at six an over, Hughes’ 40* matched by 40 extras, and, with gritted teeth, the players shook hands.
Whiston’s loss gave Elsecar the chance to keep pace with Hallam, but they faltered as Houghton Main’s resurgence continued. Houghton have had their own tough start to the season (notably losing Ian Simon to injury in the first game) but they’ve learned how to come back from adversity. They were 87-5 before David Merryweather (83*) and Oli Hayes (39) put on 101 to take them to 195-6. They then bowled Elsecar out for 160, extinguishing the bright start from Ainsley Swallow (40) and Jason Meadows. Callum Honeyman took 3-21, Oli Hayes, 3-34 and Houghton Main are back in contention.
So too are Wath. Conisbrough have now scored over 800 runs in three games – but their 200 on Saturday wasn’t enough to beat Wath, for whom captain fantastic Rob Barlow made 107 and Shawn Dyson 49 out of 228-5. Barlow also bowled well (4-58) as he and Sam Whitlam (3-39) spiked Conisbrough’s big guns. Only Arosh Janoda’s battery escaped, continuing to fire furiously, six fours and six sixes - 72 in 51 balls – but as it fell silent so did Conisbrough on 200, 28 short.
Darfield began the season with a new team and much promise but the team hasn’t yet found the strength to support the all round quality of Lesroy Weekes and on Saturday they lost to Kexborough.
Ross Diver made 128 as Kexborough, rediscovering their promotion form, reached 222-8, only pegged back by Weekes (4-32), who then top-scored for Darfield with 68 as he and Will Turner (67) set about the chase.
But with both perishing in the 180s, the innings lost steam and folded on 209-8.
Coal Aston had their first win, New Zealander Tom Griffin scoring 75 out of 220-9 against Rotherham Town seconds who struggled to 104 all out (Laurence Browes 4-45, Matt Roe 3-13 in 11) and Collegiate seconds were similarly overwhelmed by Tickhill, Collegiate making 112 (Daniel Babula 5-44) and Tickhill 118-3 (Ashley Fiddler 43*, Aaron Haycock 51*). It’s tough being a second team in a first team league. Next week though, at least one of them will get their first win, because they’re playing each other!
Elsewhere, Kexborough will take their momentum to Hallam and Houghton Main their determination to Whiston. Coal Aston will hope to upset Elsecar, Conisbrough are at Darfield and Tickhill host Wath. Then on Sunday, they all play again in the Whitworth Cup – and Whiston are back at Sandygate against Hallam – and the spirit of cricket moves on.