Saturday 12th August saw us heading north along the A1 and then west along the A66 (apparently soon to be re-branded as Route 66) in the direction of Cumbria. Main target for today was to try and see cricket at the remote outpost of Kirkby Stephen of the Eden Valley league. I tried once before but it was rained off. Low and behold after a sunny morning and a good lunch at an old haunt, the Morritt Arms, Greta Bridge, we arrived at our destination during a steady downpour.
Fortunately the rain soon stopped and we made out way down to the pleasant ground at Hills Bottom alongside the River Eden and Wainwright's famous coast to coast walk which is signposted Robin Hood's Bay 108 miles and St Bees 82 miles. Mopping up operations were underway and every prospect that play might start in due course. So after a trip to the local tea shop and a walk round the interesting town we returned shortly before play commenced at 3 p.m. with a reduction to forty overs per side.
The attractive ground has a lovely background of the Pennine Hills and is well fenced off to keep the local livestock at bay. When the sun eventually came out and the runs began to flow for the home side it proved to be a most attractive place in which to watch cricket. The visitors were Braithwaite, a village which adjoins Bassenthwaite Lake near Keswick, and yet another ground still on my wanted list.
After an interesting circuit of the ground with plenty of attractive photo opportunities it was soon time to move on. When we eventually found the result, some days later, we discovered that the home side made 165-6 with top score from wicket keeper Andy Todd, batting at number eight. Best bowling for Braithwaite came from Gilbert Pyke, one of three Pykes in the side, with 3-29.
In reply Braithwaite just managed to avoid defeat and clung on for a draw largely due to number three batsman, Jason Pyke this time, with an innings of 75. Julian Cann had by far the best bowling figures with 5-15 from just four overs but could not quite clinch victory with the last pair together on 141-9. Match drawn.
We were then off to Kendal, our overnight base through delightful scenery around the Howgill Fells and up the far side of the Lune Gorge before dropping down into Kendal. Close to our hotel we were able to re-visit Netherfield cricket club where two games were going on. The main ground was hosting a Northern Premier League game between Netherfield, the league leaders, and Chorley, who had been bowled all out for 77 before we arrived. Mark Clarkson had taken 5-21, including a hat trick to make Chorley 16-4. Marc Hadwin also took 4-7 as second in the table Chorley were routed The home side duly knocked off the runs with only three wickets down to reinforce their big lead in the table. We saw a brief glimpse of South African professional Obus Pienaar, who scored 20 not out to complete the victory in his final appearance before returning home.
Meanwhile on top of the banking, towards the ruins of Kendal Castle, Netherfield third eleven were taking on Bare, from near Morecambe, in the Westmorland League. The home side were bowled out for just 85 and Bare won a close match by just three wickets. Plenty of spectators watching both games again in very attractive surroundings.
The following day was the main event, day one of a three day Minor Counties championship game between Cumberland and Buckinghamshire at the delightful Sedbergh School ground. Not much at stake in what was the final round of matches with Lincolnshire already assured of the Eastern Division title. We had originally planned to stay for two nights to see the first two days, but a very bad weather forecast for Monday made us change our minds. Of course the forecast was not as bad as expected and they only lost about a third of a day's play but the rain did appear on day three which was washed out completely and the game ended in a draw.
Cumberland batted first, in fine conditions, and despite a somewhat hesitant start with Zelem, Brownlow and Sam Dutton all going cheaply, a fourth wicket partnership of 174 between opener Michael Slack and skipper Gary Pratt put the home side in control. Both batsmen looked set for centuries soon after tea, but sadly Slack was out for 94 bowled by the sixth bowler of the innings Masoor Khan. However Pratt, who had started quietly, showed his full range of shots, being particularly severe on anything outside the left hander's off stump, raced to his century and didn't stop there.
When the first innings ended after 90 overs, Gary Pratt had made an immaculate 143 not out. Due to the wet outfield the ball did not run to the boundary very often and his innings only contained eight fours and two sixes. There must have been a record number of twos. The one blemish was the run out of the recently prolific Matty MacKiernan, for just eight runs, when Pratt sent him back rather too late in the day. However a score of 319-6 was pretty good going and as ever we had enjoyed another good day in the Sedbergh sun.
After our departure, the shortened second day saw star bowler left arm spinner Toby Bulcock in his element before the rains came. As Buckinghamshire were all out for 176, he took all but the first and last wickets to fall and finished with the remarkable analysis of 30-15-39-8. Cumberland batted again but lost three early wickets before play ended with them on 56-3. This drawn game meant that Cumberland finished in fourth place in the table.
The one day competition final is between Lincolnshire and Berkshire at Wormsley on Wednesday 23rd August and the four day play off final is also between the same two teams this time at Banbury cricket club starting on Sunday 27th August.