So, Aston Hall have done it! They are champions of the South Yorkshire League and, apart from Whitley Hall in 2010, the first club outside the top three of Treeton, Elsecar and Wickersley to win the championship for 20 years.
It’s a fantastic achievement and they’ve done it as a team effort. They have only two batsmen (Adam Whiteley and Nicholas Smit) in the top 24 and only one bowler (Steve Ludlam) but when it matters someone has always put up his hand, as Jason Gillespie would say, to get the job done.
On Saturday, Joe Barker (45) and Rob Ward (42*) helped Smit (76*) put on 209-5 in 34 overs against Conisbrough. And when Conisbrough batted, Josh Coulson put in another excellent spell (10-3-14-3), with Ludlam (3-29) to keep them down to 140-8, giving Aston the five points they needed to stay unassailably ahead of Treeton.
Treeton had to beat the old foe, Whitley Hall, comprehensively (and Aston had to lose or be rained off) to stand a chance of catching them and Whitley were not about to make things easy. In a game reduced to 35 overs, Chris Siddall (95*) and Matthew Milburn (50) rediscovered the form that made them so feared in the early part of the season, taking Whitley Hall to 207-4.
But Treeton have their own opening pair, probably the best in the league. Charlie Roebuck blazed away as usual - 46 in 23 balls out of 78 for the first wicket. Steve Foster, also as usual, held the rest of the innings together - fifth out for 66 with the score 168-5 - and Treeton went on to win by four wickets, with five overs to spare. Tom Fletcher faced just two balls - hitting two sixes!
So Aston Hall are first, Treeton second, four points behind, and Whitley Hall third. The other promotion place to the new Yorkshire League South went to Wickersley last week.
They were unable to play against Elsecar on Saturday because of the weather, and Darfield and Hallam were also denied.
Tickhill must have been grumbling all week about their one wicket loss to Darfield the previous Saturday - because, had they won, they could have claimed the last promotion place from Wickersley.
And to prove the point, they marmalised Coal Aston on Saturday by 10 wickets, bowling them out for 78 before Steve Reid and Dominic McGough knocked off the runs in eight overs!
Ah well. There’s always next year.
In the only other game, Houghton Main held on to beat Wath by one wicket . Wath scored 140 (Jonathan Hays 40, Rob Jones 5-47). Houghton struggled to 82-7 before Tahir Nawas (35) and Jones saw them home.
That’s been the story of Wath’s season but it didn’t matter because Tickhill’s result had kept Wath away from bottom slot and both they and Coal Aston had been spared the fear of relegation by the new league arrangements (for one year only).
The Division One champions were also confirmed on Saturday. Whiston PC, with Andy Tomlinson and Danny Kemp to the fore yet again, demolished Millhouses Works. Whiston made 216-9 (Tomlinson 77, Aamer Khan 5-74) and Danny Kemp took 3-14 as Millhouses subsided to 117 all out.
Millhouses are thus bottom but also spared relegation for this year.
Had Whiston lost, Collegiate II might have been league winners because they comfortably beat Barnsley II by five wickets, but it wasn’t to be and they can comfort themselves on having had a fantastic year – much better than their first team!
So it’s all over. Top batsman in the league, by runs, was Roebuck, with Adam Whiteley of Aston Hall second. Roebuck also had the best average, with Foster second. Foster was the top wicket taker (and also had the best average – 9.37!) with that Melbourne pair Michael Topp (Darfield) and Reid (Tickhill) joint 2nd. Stuart Benzies of Hallam had most league catches.
Next year it will seem very different with Aston Hall, Treeton, Whitley Hall and Wickersley all gone, but the new opportunities for players and clubs to follow their ambitions, to show how good they really are, will be tremendous.
We wish them very well – and hope to join them soon.