BY the narrowest possible margin, clubs in the Mewies Solicitors Craven League have opted to again start the season with 40 overs per innings.

The league’s pre-season meeting, which was held on Zoom, had to decide whether to go for 40 overs per innings or 45, and the vote was 12-11 in favour of the lower figure.

Last season, while clubs were still getting used to sanitisation breaks every six overs, clubs only played 35 overs per innings but with the confidence gained from last year’s experiences of playing under Covid-19 restrictions, the vote was to increase each innings by a maximum of five overs.

However, while the decision to only play 80-over matches rather than 90 (Division Four will continue to play 80 regardless), lovers of the longer game, which will probably include many clubs in the top flight, could have a mid-season bonus.

League secretary Peter Foster said: “Once Covid-19 restrictions have been lifted we will be going back to 45 overs per innings (as was the case in 2019) in every division but Division Four.”

He was also adamant that Covid-19 protocols must be enforced.

In what was a general warning to clubs about applying league rules, he said: “The watchword in 2020 was flexibility but this year there will be proper governance of Craven League rules.”

He added: “There cannot be a casual approach to Covid. We cannot let our guard down and let it creep back in. We should follow the Covid protocols.”

Each home club must therefore have a Covid compliance officer on duty, and captains will be responsible for a list of contact numbers for his players in case of a positive coronavirus test.

Meanwhile, each club is encouraged to donate money to the Manorlands charity – the league hold an annual T20 competition, the Manorlands Plate, to raise funds for them – with Foster stating: “Their revenue stream has dried up, and each club should contribute to it, bearing in mind that this is a very worthy cause that has touched many of us.”

Bradley delegate David Ryan sportingly offered to buy 22 shirts for the two finalists via his Skipton sports shop, and the offer was gratefully accepted by the league.

League chairman Martin Burgess, who is also the umpires’ appointments co-ordinator, reminded clubs that there were only 19 panel umpires this season.

While Division One matches could expect two panel umpires, he warned: “It will be impossible to have two panel umpires for matches in Division Two.”

Division Three and Four games are generally officiated by club umpires.

The league are also looking into having a defibrillator within each of the member clubs’ grounds, or certainly accessible nearby – some clubs already have - but that this was a long-term project rather than anything for this season.