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Greater Manchester Cricket League Season Review
Tuesday 25th September 2018 @ 16:13 by Mark Phillip

Sunday afternoon saw the final action of the GMCL season and with it the chance to reflect on what has been a summer of ups and downs, both on and off the field. The destination of the silverware had been determined a week previously with the last programme of the Saturday competitions, and for Tameside and Glossop area teams the trophy cabinet ended up bare, and for Denton West and Ashton, who both had miserable seasons, there is prospect of playing a Division lower in 2019.

2018 was the 3rd season of the GMCL, and after the unfortunate demise of the Pennine League, as 7 teams opted to join the Lancashire League, it meant that the remaining Clubs were placed in the GMCL. It certainly gave the opportunity for those Clubs to face new opposition, but there was a feeling that the disappearance of a competition centred around the Rochdale; Oldham and Tameside areas took away a certain degree of local interest. The season also begged a number of questions about the future direction of league cricket. Games were conceded at a rate never seen before as clubs struggled to field teams with a real concern about the ability for a number of clubs to retain juniors in the 15-18 year old age bracket and introduce them into senior cricket. This is an issue which needs real consideration, and is not unique to the GMCL. Putting it simply – without a production line the long term future is open to question, and the various league hierarchies and clubs themselves have a real question to address. The situation with respect to overseas professionals is also far from satisfactory – with calls from national associations leading to late arrivals and early departures clubs are now finding it more and more difficult to engage a pro from overseas with any real degree of assurance about season-long availability.

Without a doubt the team of the year locally was Droylsden. Topping the 100 point mark they took the Division 2A title comfortably and the season was a real triumph. Led by Aaqib Uppal it was an all-round team effort, with the skipper himself getting over 1,000 runs and added 39 wickets, But it was far from a one man effort. Also featuring were Matt Halliday, (731 runs); Mehmood ul-Hassan, (65 wickets), and Alex Jones, (46 wickets). They finished up winning 19 of their 21 completed games and can now look forward to competing at Division 1 level next year.

With four teams relegated in the Premier Division, (a third of the whole Division), a bad run could see Clubs sucked into the relegation battle and so it proved for Denton St Lawrence. Featuring towards the top of the table for much of the season a series of losses meant that it was only a last day win which secured Premier Division status for 2019. Scott Kirwin put in a sound all-round performance, as ever, finishing with 668 runs and 43 wickets. There were also 500+ run returns from Liam Parkinson; Adam Hawley and Ryan Waterhouse, after his move from Hyde. But overall DSL will be looking for a more consistent display next year. Denton West followed Glossop, relegated 12 months ago, into Division 1. It must have been desperately disappointing for a Club which lifted the Lancashire KO Cup as recently as 2016. Overseas amateur Chris Stevenson had a decent return, (508 runs and 39 wickets), but pro Blessing Muzurabani had a mediocre season, not helped by a mid season return to Zimbabwe.

In Division 1 Flowery Field entered the season hopeful of building on their 2017 campaign, when they missed out on promotion after a last day wash-out. They ended up in mid-table, but once again had good value from pro Mike Burns, (355 runs and 47 victims). He was more than backed up by Jamie Garde and an outstanding return of 60 wickets from Mike Finan. Denton, (with pro Cloete Buitendag playing a key role with 795 runs and 47 wickets), and Dukinfield also ended up in mid-table. Stayley, after moving from the PCL, had a disastrous start but a rally saw them preserve their status. They were indebted to Aqeel Ahmed, (862 runs) and pro Hamza Nadeem, (431 runs and 62 wickets). Pro Lahiru Udara was a late arrival at North Road, but Glossop eventually benefitted as he picked up just short of 500 runs. Will Hargreaves had 49 wickets as Glossop ended up in 6th place.

A Division lower Micklehurst were beset by the impact of the moorland fires but rallied to ensure a place at the same level next year. It was an impressive effort by the Richmond Hill club, and they certainly benefitted from overseas man Rico Hurley. The Barbadian got 776 runs and captured 28 wickets, but it was good to see club products Tom White and Daniel Clayton playing an important role. 14 year old White, (300 runs and 31 wickets) and Clayton, (504 runs and 22 wickets) showed the crucial role that a vibrant junior section can play.  There is little that can be said about an Ashton campaign that ended in the drop to Division 3, with the Reyner Lane club still struggling at senior level to recover from the loss of 8 players from a team which reached the Tanner Cup final in 2018. It was good, however, to see the junior sections developing, with a number of 13 and 14 year olds featuring strongly at 2nd team level.

In Division 4 East Ashton Ladymith finished in mid table – a division which saw Denton 2nd XI win promotion.

So it is 7 months until the 2019 season dawns. Clubs will already be planning ahead, and the events of the 2018 season will have given plenty of food for thought for the powers that be in the GMCL. Hopefully the time will be used wisely by Clubs and League alike. The future of league cricket demands it.

By Martin Frost