Delighted to see my first cricket of 2017 on Sunday 8th January with the traditional new year game between Malhamdale and Appletreewick. My first visit for about three years but the ritual is the same as ever, possibly with a few refinements. This proved yet another excellent day out in the wonderful scenery of the Yorkshire Dales.
The brief notice on the Malhamdale CC website suggested meet at the Buck Inn, Malham at twelve noon. We knew from past experience that this is only the start of negotiations, as a fair amount of ale needs to be consumed before the players actually take to the field. However this did give us the chance to partake of a very good turkey lunch, while we could overhear complicated conversations in the bar next door explaining the local rules which apply to puzzled newcomers.
Eventually signs of life in the farmer's field where a strip appeared to have been cut but in fact play took place alongside it rather than on it! Players, some still with pints in hand, and spectators gradually drifted out of the pub and somewhat reluctantly took their places ready for action.
The home side batted first and made a pretty good start. The number of fielders seemed to be more than eleven, but that did not matter, particularly as one of them held a large flask (presumably of alcohol) which seemed to be handed round for a compulsory swig either for doing something right or doing something wrong.
Dropped catches were the first offence and the poor fieldsman, both had to take a swig and then do a lap of the field. Similar swigs were taken when wickets fell and catches were taken, without the need for a penalty circuit. So it continued until one of the openers reached the magic target of 25 and was made to retire.
Despite some rather erratic bowling, with most overs all from the same end, the cricket was being played properly and the score continued to mount helped by a good contribution from a new acquisition from Lincolnshire, Mark Harrop. He hit a couple of sixes as well as two fours and soon had to retire on reaching 25. I should have mentioned that another rule does not allow any lbw dismissals, but that didn't seem to matter either as two were bowled and two more caught.
Malhamdale ended their innings of ten eight ball overs with a reasonable score of 73-6.
By this time quite a large crowd had gathered and we met our friend Ian from Lancaster, who has been a regular here for many years. He was equally entertained by watching another event taking part in one corner of the field. This was a ladies' rounders competition between three local teams and was apparently just as exciting as the cricket.
Sadly the ubiquitous Steve Bindman, who played last year, was absent due to illness and we were missing the chance of watching him bowl in his rather unique style.
The visitors, Appletreewick, made a poor start to their reply losing two wickets in the second over. They were never really in the game after that, although three of the middle order batsmen, including both Stockdales, hit a six each, before four of them were run out and the innings came to an end with the score on 61-6.
So Malhamdale were worthy winners by a margin of twelve runs and no doubt everyone returned to the Buck Inn to finish the day in style.
A rather more low key game took place the following weekend at St Chad's cricket club based in Far Headingley, Leeds. This was a charity game in aid of Wheatfields Hospice played between two teams of St Chad's players and a few guests which included local M.P. Greg Mulholland.
No strange rules here and the game was played in a very proper manner with the majority of players in whites. The weather was fine, with clear blue skies, but still rather chilly, particularly out of the sun. It was suggested that the lone spectator in the picture above was frozen to his seat.
Deceptive winter sunshine tempts one bowler to wear shorts
The calls of lunch and warmth meant I left at the half way stages, but no doubt a fuller account of proceedings will appear on John Fuller's excellent website cricketyorkshire.com on Tuesday next.
Later that evening I was rather taken in by an e-mail from our racing correspondent, Keith Fenton. He said he had seen cricket on his way home from the races at Dover cricket club, with several sixes onto the pavilion roof to win the match. I could only assume he was returning from racing in France. Earlier today he put me right, he was on holiday abroad, staying in Dover, Barbados! Slightly warmer temperatures I'm sure.