Ready for tough northerners

NORTHERNERS are reputedly more hardy than southerners and, should last weekend s weather be repeated, a side from Bolton will be able to prove the point in the first games of the season at the Fort Field.

NORTHERNERS are reputedly more hardy than southerners and, should last weekend's weather be repeated, a side from Bolton will be able to prove the point in the first games of the season at the Fort Field.As testimony to their southern softness, Sidmouth and Bradninch last week agreed to discontinue their match at the tea interval when a snowstorm engulfed the rural Mid Devon ground. As Sidmouth arrived at Bradninch the temperature was a comparatively balmy six degrees Celsius; when they left it was 1.5. If spring has not returned by this weekend, Baxenden, whose squad includes former England and Lancashire all-rounder Ian Austin, will have the chance to show that such a mere chill in the air should not get in the way of cricketing action.Twenty of the Lancashire squad arrive in Sidmouth today, having flown from Manchester and will make the return journey on Monday. The rest of the party, who are billeted at the Woodlands Hotel for the weekend, are putting their trust in the motorway network being open.Two games are scheduled for them at the Fort Field, a first XI fixture tomorrow and a 2nd XI match on Sunday.It would be inaccurate to say Sidmouth's players warmed up for the contests with their outing at Bradninch, but a number of batsmen did get to feel leather on their willow.Anthony Griffiths and Josh Barlow gave the innings a start, the latter hitting two sixes before receiving a ball from Ross Acton that pitched on leg stump, seamed and removed his middle peg.Griffiths ground on and survived some close calls, or lack of them, in the running between wickets. He reached 41 before playing on. This made way for skipper Nick Gingell who took one heave and miss to get attuned to the pace of the pitch before thumping 45 not out in 17 balls with four sixes, three of them off consecutive balls, and two fours.With contributions from Matt Cooke, James Macey and Miles Dalton, Sidmouth reached 169-7 off their 35-over allocation and headed for the pavilion as snow-laden clouds gathered above. Enough of their contents fell to dissuade the sides from continuing after a plentiful, varied and tasty tea, which featured pineapple and strawberries. It was a vain bid by the Bradninch caterers to persuade participants that summer had arrived.l Last Saturday the Fort Field was primed for this weekend's action when the club participated in Nat West Cricket Force, a nationwide drive to get cricket grounds in tip top order for the forthcoming season through volunteer effort.Twenty volunteers set to work on the facilities and achieved much, including reducing an old set of leaky covers to scrap with an angle grinder loaned by Castle Plant Hire. Devon County Council's recycling facility at Exmouth, however, refused to accept the neatly dissected remains. Not domestic waste was the reason given.Thanks to brushes and paint provided courtesy of L G Harris, the pristine white sightscreens now provide batsmen with one less excuse for their dismissal. And spectators requiring the warmth of the pavilion will be able to see out of the sparklingly clean windows.A large white plastic sheet, purchased for more than £1,000 to replace the old wheeled covers, was deployed for the first time at the end of the day. New groundsman Colin Whitehall was horrified next morning to discover that seagulls had decided that his pitches needed more moisture and pecked holes in the cover.He will be pleased to hear from any falconers who wish to use the Fort Field for flying training of their birds of prey.l Tonight there is a registration session from 5.45pm at the pavilion for youngsters wanting to learn cricketing skills at weekly Friday night practice sessions and be considered for the club's colts teams which compete at under 11, under 13 and under 15 level.

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