IT was a season of hugely contrasting fortunes for local clubs in the Greater Manchester Cricket League.
There was a title for Denton West and a return to the premier league while Dukinfield and Mottram also won promotion.
But there was also frustration as Denton St Lawrence finished runners-up in the premier league and Dukinfield were also second and pipped for the title in division one.
There was nothing to beat the pure drama of the final day in division one where Dukinfield, Mottram and Stretford could all have been crowned champions with only one point separating the three clubs.
Dukinfield, who began the day in top spot, were pipped for the title by one bonus point as Stretford leapfrogged them while Mottram finished third in their debut first full season in the GMCL.
There was heartbreak for Stayley and Denton CC, however, as both were relegated.
Stayley’s demotion was nothing to do with results, but down to a 11-point deduction which the club is contesting over the eligibility of a deputy pro they engaged.
SAINTS, league and cup double winners in 2019, the last proper season, were second to Prestwich who also landed the Derek Kay Cup.
They lost out by only four points with captain Adam Hawley saying the weather influenced the outcome of the league which was disappointing.
He pointed to back-to-back games in August which were abandoned with Saints in a strong position to claim maximum points.
They restricted Prestwich to 125-7 and were 41-1 when the game ended. And the next week they amassed a formidable 295-9 against bottom-club Glodwick who were unable to resume.
Hawley said: “It was unfortunate the weather should influence the results of two crucial games on consecutive weekends.
“It was still a great achievement to finish runners-up and we had only one less point than 2019 which was described as a wonderful season, and I am proud of what we did.”
Hawley added opening batsmen Liam Parkinson and Mark Dilnutt, middle-order batsman and left arm spin bowler Matthew Sonczak and top order batsman and seam bowler Scott Kirwin all performed well.
“They all had solid years without us having any superstars,” he said.
Saints are already looking to next season and hope to re-engage South African professional Neil Hornbuckle and retain the nucleus of this season’s side while adding depth to the team.
The club’s annual bonfire on Saturday, November 6 will be the main fundraiser.
DENTON WEST will become a second team from the town in the top-flight after winning premier league two by an emphatic margin.
The lost only three of their 22 league matches and finished nine points clear of second-placed Edgworth and 34 ahead of Bury who were fourth as they regained the premier league status they lost in 2017.
Captain George Hill described it as a triumph for the club’s investment in youth as eight of the team had come through the junior ranks.
West did not have a permanent pro using sub-pros with Middleton’s James Price the main one.
The amateur players all contributed with Callum Flynn, Aaquib Uppal, Liam Kilburn and Hill all amassing more than 500 runs while Uppal claimed 47 wickets with Flynn and Jordan Williams reaching 30 dismissals.
Hill admitted it has been a tough season having to deal with Covid restrictions, but it was a triumph to complete the season.
He added the challenge will be to improve and establish themselves in the premier league.
Hill said: “We will be looking to sign a good professional and two amateurs, an opening bowler and left-arm spinner.
“I am looking forward to the challenge and also playing against our old rivals (Saints).”
While it was a successful season for Saints and West, DENTON, the town’s third team, had a season to forget as they were relegated from division one, the fourth tier.
Cricket chairman Tom Stenson explained the margins were fine between success and failure.
He said: “I looked through our results and there were four games when we were on top but couldn’t get over the line. With an extra, experienced bowler, I think we would have been mid-table.
“We also knew we would lose to teams who had a professional, something we have decided against having.”
Stenson added it was always going to be a season of transition for the club which used to be one of the major forces in local cricket before hitting hard times.
But with a rebuilding of the club taking place, he added there has been green shoots of recovery, despite relegation.
He said: “It was not a great season, but we have a great set of players, and the key ones are committed to stay.
“We have to forget our history, that we won the league in the past and beat Saints, West, Prestwich and teams in the premier league and have to start again.”
Denton is also rebuilding its off-the-field infrastructure and Stenson added it is more positive than it has been for several years.
At the opposite end of division one, there was the epic three-way battle for the two promotion places.
DUKINFIELD captain Sydney De Silva admitted to being “absolutely gutted” to be pipped for the title on the last day of the season, though they secured promotion with their win at Hadfield St Andrews.
They went into the last day on level points with Stretford who were crowned champions by virtue of picking up a bonus point in their victory against Denton.
De Silva said: “It was an unbelievable season with the battle at the top between Stretford, Mottram and us.
“Mottram made a really good start but lost out while we started slowly then won almost every game we played.
“We also reached the cup final, which I understand was the club’s first for 60 years, and we should have beaten Shaw but were punished for dropped catches.
“Little mistakes cost us the league as we had chances to have won the title with three games to spare.
“We set our goal to get promotion, and to achieve that, reach a cup final and quarter-finals of the T20 made it an amazing season, though to have won the league and cup would have been the icing on the cake.”
MOTTRAM’S first full season in the GMCL ended with promotion to the championship and reaching the final of the T20 when they lost to Golbourne.
“It has been a great season and we have done brilliantly to win promotion, especially as we didn’t have a professional,” explained cricket secretary Phil Mellor.
Mottram finished only two points behind champions Stretford and Mellor said: “We had five games rained off, more than other teams had, and that undoubtedly cost us points.
“We are delighted to be moving up to the championship and will be looking to strengthen for that level of cricket.”
The four mainstays of the side were captain Stefan Fielding, who had an excellent season with the bat, all-rounder Oliver Andrew, Ryan Fitton and Danny Brightmore.
MICKLEHURST just missed out on promotion in division 2B as they finished third.
Their hopes of going up were effectively ended mid-season when they were informed only one club would be promoted.
This was because new clubs are joining the GMCL and, because of their status, they will be parachuted into a higher division as opposed to starting at the bottom of the pyramid.
STAYLEY lost their third-tier championship status after being docked 11 points over the eligibility of one of their deputy professionals.
The Millbrook club claims to have authorisation to play the pro and are pursuing an appeal.
FLOWERY FIELD, meanwhile, were the only club that was not involved in either a promotion or relegation issue.
They finished in mid-table eighth position in premier league two.