The watery grave syndrome' continues to swamp cricket

PUBLISHED: 18:03 13 August 2008 | UPDATED: 22:10 15 June 2010

Saturday s across-the- board washout that saw none of the 74 scheduled matches in the Francis Clark Devon cricket league manage to reach a conclusion means that, with just three more match days, many sides are going to be left on the final weekend of August reflecting on a campaign of what might have been had the weather not had such an effect on their season

Saturday's across-the- board washout that saw none of the 74 scheduled matches in the Francis Clark Devon cricket league manage to reach a conclusion means that, with just three more match days, many sides are going to be left on the final weekend of August reflecting on a campaign of what might have been had the weather not had such an effect on their season.

In terms of wet summers the statistics make very interesting reading.

Over the past six summers, there is evidence to suggest that the playing season is being hit harder and harder by unseasonal weather.

In 2003, there were 100 cancellations or abandonments out of an 812- match campaign. A year later, it had dropped to just 62 of the 702 matches being hit by the elements but it shot up in 2005 when 123 of the 668 games were hit by summer rain.

In 2006, there was a slight drop, with 102 out of 668 scheduled matches. However, in the last two years, the cricketers have been hardest hit with almost twice as many matches cancelled or abandoned as had been washed away in the previous four seasons!

Last year, 181 of the 650 matches were washed out and that was 28% of the entire fixture list and, after last weekend's wipe out, it means that, to date, 155 of the 555 scheduled games have met a watery grave, and that, too, represents 28% of the fixture list to date.

Last season Uplyme & Lyme Regis fin ished their 18-game campaign having been unable to complete seven of their matches. Upottery, too, suffered badly, losing six of a 16-match schedule.

This season the hardest hit to date are Woodland Fort from Plymouth who have had to put up the No Play Today signs seven times in 15 games.

Locally it's Honiton who have been affected most. They have lost six of their 15 scheduled matches. Yarcombe & Stockland have missed out on a third of their games - they've had five out of 15 washed away - and spare a thought for the players and officials of Torquay 2nd XI who have endured a miserable campaign that has meant they have played only eight of their scheduled 15 games this soggy summer.

It's not just the players who are left frustrated - tea ladies the length and breadth of the county have had a very difficult time trying to judge whether a game will go ahead or not whilst ground staff must have spent a great deal of their time this summer checking up on weather forecasts and determining just when to have the covers ready to be deployed.

With three games to play this season, and some 60 points at stake, there are lots of ups and downs to be decided.

Axminster's B Division promotion bid hit the buffers a couple of weeks ago and the C Division promotion push of Seaton suffered a terminal blow with the wash-out of their game at leaders Clyst Hydon on Saturday.

With both sides picking up half a dozen points from the cancellation, it leaves Mike Wheeler's side two places and 38 points adrift of second placed Kingsbridge and the dream of beginning the climb back to their former position of power in the County League will have to be put on hold unless there is a remarkable sequence of results on Saturday that see Kingsbridge meet doomed Babbacombe whilst Wheeler's men entertain fellow East Devon side Feniton.

The across-the-board washout means that Kilmington remain deep in trouble at the foot of the C Division. The plight of Ian Gooding's side is not helped by their next match as they are set, weather permitting, to host champions-elect Clyst Hydon on Saturday afternoon but, with fellow relegation battlers Chagford also facing a top three, promotion-chasing outfit, anything that Gooding's men can take from the visit of the Mid Devon side would give them a better chance with Seaton and Kingsbridge still to meet.

In D Division, Ottery St Mary waited longer than most to try to beat the elements on Saturday. They were helped by the fact that they have covers at their Strawberry Lane headquarters and, with the opposition being neighbours Whimple, there was precious little travelling involved and so the Otters held on for as long as possible. But the rain was unrelenting and, like almost every other club across the local cricketing divide, they bowed to the elements.

All is not lost in terms of John Tierney's side's promotion bid. They go into Saturday's trip to second bottom Ipplepen sitting 21 points and three places behind second placed Hatherleigh and, with Thorverton away and Dawlish at home, to follow, a good result in South Devon at the weekend and the Otters will be very much 'n the mix at the business end of the campaign.

Whimple find themselves too close to the drop zone for comfort with just three games and 60 points to play for. They currently sit just three points above the relegation places and so Saturday's visit of leaders Dartington looks very daunting. But with Ipplepen away after that, and a home game on the final day of the season against Thorverton, there's enough action left for Simon Van Grudging's side to retain their place for next season.

The rain put a serious dent in Honiton's promotion hopes and, with three to play, they are 29 adrift of second placed Bridestowe and simply must win their last three - starting with Saturday's trip up the A30 to Exeter Civil Service - if they are to keep the dream alive. Pete Maltravers' side have been badly hit by the elements this term, having lost more points to the rain than both the only two sides to currently sit above them in the E Division table.

Yarcombe & Stockland were forced to endure a nervous Saturday afternoon when news filtered through that the only side who could deny them promotion along with G Division champions Upottery, Topsham St James were beating the weather and playing their match with Newton St Cyres.

Having been forced to take the six points for the cancellation of their game at Upottery, Yarcombe could do no more other than hope Topsham St James would not take the 15 points from their game that would edge them beyond Nigel Parris's outfit.

At tea, the Exeter side were well on their way, having banked maximum batting points thanks to a total of 200-8 and an early wicket in the reply would have been met with great despair back at Yarcombe. However, the heavens then opened, the players left the pitch, the game was abandoned and the 11 points the hosts took from the contest left them still three shy of Yarcombe and the celebrations were able to begin back at the King's Arms in Stockland.

The G Division Plate begins this weekend with Yarcombe & Stockland travelling to Topsham St James. The winners will travel to Newton St Cyres in the semi-final the following Saturday whilst the other Plate match sees Chardstock host Upottery and the winners of that meeting will travel to Shaldon seven days later.

The final is set for August 30 at a venue yet to be determined.

By Stephen Birley

East Devon cricket

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