As we reach the half-way point of the season the Westmorland Cricket League is shaping up as expected, league historian John Glaister writes
The predicted wind of change is blowing through the Westmorland Cricket League.
The two-club domination of Lancastrian Warton and Westgate in recent seasons is over.
Their usurpers could come from Westmorland with three clubs currently in the top four positions. No Westmorland club has won the WCL since 2006 which is a record gap.
The flirtacious Arnside club is chief amongst these usurpers.
Last season they hovered above the relegation zone but as things stand they are slight favourites for this year’s title.
Confidence is sky high. Runs are scored for fun with captain Adam Richardson and former captain ‘Nobby’ Lee showing the way.
The key to the Championship though lies in the hands of bowlers Robert Shepherd, Chris Howsley, Alex Davidson and Adrian Lee.
Milnthorpe have a major birthday this year. Starting life on Dallam Tower Park in 1863 they are 150 years old.
Winning the Bateman Shield would be the best of presents. If they don’t they will look to their usual dreadful start which yielded no win until game six.
Captain Lee Illingworth, however, is proving inspirational and a match winner.
With Bob Baldwin literally back in the swing with his bowling this may be the last chance this particular Milnthorpe team has of securing the crown.
Consistent runs from Mike Wills and Phil Bovis could be the tipping point.
The third and unlikeliest of the Westmorland pretenders is Burneside who will play the second half of the season without Stephen Cooper.
He’s off to Holland where at least they play cricket, and it’s flat. His successor with the blade is looking to be Rob Shepherd.
Captain Robert Davies will likely be more reliant on his bowlers than his batsmen however to sustain any realistic hopes. Cue Chris Dixon.
In the eyes of many, pre-season favourites for top spot remain Shireshead and Forton.
Capturing Peter Wilson from Westgate was the biggest heist in WCL history.
His runs and wickets, along with those of Tom Jacques and Phil Oliver, could propel the momentum, though a lack of batting in depth could be their undoing.
Oliver is the only regular left from the 1990 Championship side. There would be no detractors should he get another medal. Philip has consistently performed.
What of Wilson’s erstwhile comrades? Westgate were the phenomenon of the noughties rarely out of the top two and not enough club house space for the trophies. All eyes were looking to see how they fared without their steersman.
They look to be a mid-table side with captain Andrew Hill manipulating his resources without the luxury of an escape hatch.
Hill himself is having a good season but the future of Westgate lays in the hands of a new generation like Dylan Conroy.
Exactly the same applies to former great rivals Warton.
They too are looking to rebuild around the likes of schoolboy leg spinner George Pickering.
Lack of success this year, however, will be more than compensated for by the awarding of the British Empire Medal to club president Colin Bolton in HM’s Birthday Honours List.
Best of the rest are Heysham who are probably out of contention and need to start believing they shouldn’t be.
With a ton and a five-wicket haul already against two top teams they have the in-form all-rounder in Andrew Ideson and in Sam Calverley they have a bowler who commands respect from the top order.
Bolton-le-Sands, Silverdale and Windermere are singularly dependent on their bowling strength.
Respectively Mark Clarkson and Adam Dyson, Jon Mason and Paul Moffatt, Jono Cooper and Matt Park. Jono Cooper is having a sparkling season.
Batting is suspect in all three clubs but Graham Beaumont and Michael Cole at Bolton-le-Sands; Jack Hargreaves and Sam Letcher at Silverdale and Ollie Kilner and Sam Fletcher at Windermere have all scored runs.
The two Morecambe sides of Bare and Trimpell look as though they will end up in the bargain basement despite Bare having John Molle.
With two tons already to his name he exudes class.
If Bare are relegated the close season press-gangs could be heading his way.
Trimpell don’t have a stellar performer but they do have time to get out of trouble.
At the other end of the table it’s looking like a storming finish, and the sun might remember to shine.