WHILE Barkisland savour Sykes Cup success and Delph & Dobcross contemplate another defeat in the major final, it’s time to congratulate the ‘third team’ on duty.
Last Sunday’s Romida-backed showpiece went off with only a minimal rain delay (thank goodness!) and both sides provided plenty of engrossing entertainment to warm the 700-strong crowd in pretty chilly conditions.
None of it would have been possible, however, had it not been for some sterling work by the ‘third team’ – everyone connected at hosts Honley.
First of all, groundsman Pete Green did a superb job in preparing a wicket worthy of a top-class competitive final – which was excellently umpired – when the weather all previous week was abysmal.
He had to keep the strip covered every day – with very few opportunities to let it air under the sun – and on the day before the big match the Far End Lane ground was hit by a deluge of rain, not a ball being bowled between Honley Seconds and Skelmanthorpe.
When the covers came off on Sunday morning, there were a couple of precious hours of drying before storm clouds began to gather again, but it’s a tribute to Green that when Barkisland skipper Paul Winrow won the toss, he had no hesitation in batting despite the surface being slightly damp.
Indeed, Winrow ensured the first scoring stroke of the final was a six – that can’t have happened very often, if ever – by clipping Mike Smethurst behind square leg, and his final tally of 138 was testament to the quality of the wicket.
It allowed proper strokeplay to be rewarded fully – as Winrow and Dave Weston showed in their crucial partnership of 128 for the second wicket – while the bowlers also found their best efforts paid off.
Irfan Zahoor pegged away to claim four wickets for Delph, while Bilal Khiljee bowled economically to conceded just 29 off his 14.5 overs, then off-spinner Matt Steers cashed in for Barkisland to head home with a winner’s medal and a six-wicket haul.
All the while Honley players – who are more used to taking part in the Drakes League’s big final in recent years than helping stage it – helped Green with the covers, collected empty glasses, bottles and cans from around the ground and generally made sure the event ran as smoothly as possible. Then the burgers and hot dogs went down well, the face painters did a roaring trade and the ladies in the clubhouse did a splendid job with the tea.
For the record, a chicken salad with new potatoes seemed to hit the mark with players and officials alike, as did the apple pie and cream for desert.
Anyway, I digress. It was a terrific final and the efforts of the Honley club in staging it so well played a big part in the enjoyment.
For Barkisland, it marked the biggest day in their history and if the club can close that three-point gap on Golcar and claim the Byrom Shield in the coming weeks, it will make for a pretty much perfect season in just their eighth year at Drakes level.
As for Delph, it was a disappointing day for respected chairman Peter Gledhill, captain Grant Jones and the supporters and the Sykes Cup is now becoming something of a Holy Grail for them.
Maybe it will be third time lucky next season – and Jones certainly indicated they’ll be giving it everything they’ve got.