UNIQUE IDENTITY: Brian Jones, president of the Darlington and District Cricket League TM pic
UNIQUE IDENTITY: Brian Jones, president of the Darlington and District Cricket League TM pic

THE importance of maintaining the Darlington and District League’s identity as a home for recreational cricketers was emphasised at this year's annual meeting.

Addressing members of the 20 clubs which make up the league, president Brian Jones looked back on what he said had been a another good year, while addressing the structure for next season.

“I feel confident in saying 2019 was another highly successful year for the league – its 59th,” he said.

“The weather was not as kind as it might have been, but all competitions were completed.

“The number of conceded games was down on the previous season, with only one in the A division.”

He paid tribute to the clubs for the improving standards of the playing surfaces and in efforts to attract players, encouraging the young by operating junior sections and taking part in initiatives such as the ECB’s All Stars programme, and welcoming back experienced players who have not played for some time.

Mr Jones added: “It is important the league retains its identity as a recreational cricket league, catering for cricketers of a great range of ages and abilities.

“To retain that identity we must ensure our rule book reflects that type of cricket – but this does not mean which should not seek to improve.”

Members backed the league executive committee’s proposal to operate three divisions next season.

The A and B division will be made up of 12 teams who will play each other home and away, and there will be six teams in the C division playing each other home and away twice.

Mr Jones said this would ensure a full programme of fixtures on a Saturday afternoon and tackle the criticism from last season of sides going weeks on end without a league fixture.

While the weather was partly to blame, Mr Jones conceded the 2019 three division structure of 12-10-10 last season hadn’t helped the situation.

Mr Jones said he was sorry to see two teams leaving the league next season.

Richmondshire IV will play in the NYSD, leaving the fifth XI as the club’s representatives in the Darlington and District B division.

After the devastating arson attack which destroyed Spennymoor’s pavilion, the club has found it increasingly difficult to field two teams, so the second XI has resigned.

Mr Jones noted it had been a very difficult couple of years for Spennymoor but the club had worked extremely hard to fulfil fixtures despite the setback.

He also said it had been a pleasure to welcome Lands back into the fold after the club dropped out for a season.

At the AGM Lands was granted full league status again after a successful 2019 saw the team lift the C division cup, gain promotion and finish within three points of champions King James.

Earlier starting time and more points for abandoned matches

LEAGUE matches in the Darlington and District Cricket League will start at 1.30pm next season after clubs voted in favour of the earlier start.

Proposals to alter the start time of games are routinely lodged with the league’s executive committee for the annual meeting and in recent years, the clubs have been reluctant to bring the 2pm start time forward any further.

At this year’s annual meeting it was pointed out that an earlier start time – and subsequent earlier finish – would help players who either had plans for a Saturday night or, in the case of a number of younger players, were heading off to work.

It was also pointed that 1.30pm would bring the DDCL more into line with other leagues, such as the County Durham League.

Clubs voted 19-5 in favour of the earlier start.

However, plans to allow captains of C division games to reduce the number of overs played from 40 to 30 did not get a seconder.

The number of points awarded for an abandoned game will increase from two to four plus any bonus points gained during play.

The move, proposed by Middleton-in-Teesdale CC and backed by Raby Castle was passed 18-7.

Raby Castle’s Stephen Caygill said the club thought two points was too low, but accepted this also acted an an incentive for teams to get the game on when conditions were not perfect – a point emphasised by league president Brian Jones.

The two-year experiment to appoint neutral umpires in A division games has been deemed such a success it has been written into the rule book.

However, rather than the home team bearing the £30 cost for an umpire, it will be shared by both sides.

Proposing the measure, James Frankland, of Barton CC, said this was a fair arrangement as it wasn’t always possible for the league to provide a full roster of umpires for matches.

This meant players at some clubs were paying more in umpire fees than others and in the games where an umpire stood, both sides were benefiting.

New handicap system for Cec Leece Cup ties

A HANDICAP system to give lower division teams a realistic chance of reaching the final stages of the Darlington and District Cricket League’s Cec Leece Cup will be introduced after the measure was agreed on the president’s casting vote.

All 30 teams in the league’s three divisions will be entered into next season’s 20-over Cec Leece competition.

In previous seasons, it has inevitably been two clubs from the A division that have made it through to the final.

League president Brian Jones said this had led to a number of lower division teams not fulfilling fixtures.

To try to improve the situation, the executive committee proposed a handicap system of one run per over per division against the higher ranked side.

This would see a C division side receiving a 40-run start against A division opponents

Mr Jones said: “Of the eight second round ties last season, three were conceded. This is to try to give an incentive for lower division teams to play in the cup.”

Needing a two-thirds majority to be approved, Mr Jones used his casting vote after the show of hands was taken. Meanwhile, proposals by Raby Castle CC to impose fielding restrictions in league cup matches did not find any support, while Middleton-in-Teesdale's idea to decide rain affected matches by a bowl-off were also rejected.