From the latest start, to the longest summer:

Well, it was for Pembrokeshire cricket anyway. A 2020 season which seemingly teetered on the brink of oblivion ended with six fulfilled cup competitions, countless friendlies, and competitive regional cricket at junior level.

Even as late as last Sunday games were going on, but now I think it’s safe to assume the campaign has concluded. If not then tough, I’m not waiting to summarize and dish out completely irrelevant awards any longer.

From behind the times, to ahead of the game:

Here in Pembrokeshire, we aren’t widely viewed as dynamic innovates.

Explaining to players from afar why tail enders are blocking out so their team can lose by 20 runs hasn’t always been easy. Nor has arguing that the Division 5 clash between Whitland 3rds and Stackpole 2nds at Llandewi Velfry doesn’t need pre-match fireworks, flashing bails, or I-pads for the umpires.

In 2020 however, only one county in Wales managed to schedule and subsequently play its premier cup competitions to completion. That feat didn’t require elite facilities, just hard work and a willingness to improvise.

In this case, fortune favoured the brave. The prolonged good weather, plus the now seemingly temporary relaxation of Covid-19 restrictions, allowed for a shortened season with minimal disruption. Things were never going to be perfect, but they ran smoothly enough to ensure a six week window of opportunity didn’t go to waste.

Cricket Wales, and more specifically Keri Chahal, were active in encouraging league committees to get things in place and our own Executive did that. Whether all parties were entirely in agreement only they know but the fact is, a lot of doubters (and whingers) were proved wrong.

Credit where it’s due.

Pitching in:

August showed us what is possible when there is a real intent to get games on.

The tight schedule left little room for re-arrangements, which meant added pressure on ground staff but at the same time, reduced the risk of dubious postponements.

Both Harrison-Allen Bowl semi finals went ahead despite morning mist and rain, and the women’s final was switched to Pembroke Dock at the 11th hour. Conditions weren’t always perfect but herein lies the key – they don’t have to be to play amateur cricket.

Yes, if you’re standing underneath a monsoon or your pitch is plagued by puddles there is little you can do, and no one would suggest ignoring safety protocols. But too often in our county, and the same applies to football and rugby, postponements are made at the first sight of morning drizzle.

The phrase ‘get the game on’ is now widely banded about in lower level sport. This summer showed what can be achieved when there is actually some meaning behind it.

All year round:

Let’s not waste time speculating on who would have won titles, been promoted, or got relegated.

Going straight into cup competitions may have made things something of a lottery, but as far as the Bowl was concerned, the format played into Neyland’s hands. And I mean that as a compliment.

Most of us will down tools (or bats) when a season finishes in August and then return swinging like a rusty gate the following April. While nets were permitted mid-summer, this time around there was little time for the more casual cricketers to get back in the groove.

Those who hone skills through the winter, whether it be through training or playing indoor tournaments, are always more likely to hit the ground running.

It’s something Sean Hannon and co have had down to tee in recent times and up until March of this year, they were still playing competitive cricket. And they duly picked up where they left off to win a fifth Harrison-Allen Bowl in 10 seasons.

I’m not advocating practicing the pull shot at 6am on Christmas morning, but it shows that staying sharp in the off season reaps rewards.

Crowded out:

Throughout the summer clubs, authorities, and yes, journalists, all paid lip service to the ban on spectators.

Whilst doing so, we all knowingly feigned ignorance to the herd of white elephants trampling through the room.

I do understand why the measure was put in place but in truth, it was impossible to police. Especially given some grounds are surrounded by public fields and footpaths.

Even at Llanrhian, we played one evening fixture where there were more spectators than cows, which basically equates to our record attendance. And we weren’t going to call in the military to sort it out either.

The one real sticking point of course, surrounded the Bowl final. Given the outside scrutiny on that event, the rules had to be strictly adhered to.  

Each club were permitted a restricted amount of guests but the late afternoon atmosphere, usually fuelled by tension and lager, was noticeably missing.

Was it the same? Of course not. From a selfish point of view it made covering the game via a live blog easier, and I dare say ramped up the web hits, but give me a day of standing on the table while boozed up fancy dress goers block the view from the balcony any day.

And while right now nothing is certain, we all sincerely hope that by next season we are at a stage where spectators, even the annoying ones, can enjoy the social aspect of watching cricket in Pembrokeshire again (without having to break any rules).

The new normal?:

After years of longing, 2020 finally saw win/lose league cricket come to Pembrokeshire. Well, it was supposed to come anyway.

So what better way to show gratitude than to stir the pot again.

Playing 20 or 22 over cricket on a Saturday was a refreshing change for some. More exciting, less time consuming, and back in the pub at an earlier hour than necessary. The only slight concern now, is whether we all found it so enjoyable that a return to the 40-45 over stuff will seem a chore.

I dare say the new format, assuming we can start as planned in 2021, will ensure there is still enough interest in the longer stuff but this summer has raised some interesting issues.

Are 1pm start times for everyone feasible? Can the season run into September if Sunday’s are utilised? Am I being overly ambitious in thinking all this?

Probably yes to all three.

Telegraph Sport Cricket Awards for 2020 (unofficial) – and team of the season:

They mean nothing, there are no prizes, they’re based on my opinion only, you’ll probably disagree, and I’m about to turn notifications off on Twitter. Other than that, enjoy.

Regardless, thankyou to all players, officials, scorers, colleagues, and photographers for what in the end, was a bonus cricket season. Over and out for 2020.

Player of the season: Ashley Sutton

He’s worn more rugby shirts than I’ve made typos, but cricket-wise Sutton has been integral to Neyland ever since re-joining 2012. And he proved it again this season.

He warmed up with a century in the Alec Colley and then once back in the first team fold, scored a crucial 31 as Neyland edged Carew in the Bowl quarter final, made a rapid 32 not out in the demolition of Tish in the semi, and then with 34 and 53, was man of the match as they beat Haverfordwest in the final.

It was the second time he’d won the latter honour, also receiving it in 2013. When he’s on his game, he’s some player.

Young player of the season: George Smith

Getting the Ormond Youth Cup in was vital - it gave extra game time to youngsters who weren’t necessarily first choice in their club senior sides.

Smith didn’t have the latter problem but it’s because of the Ormond, where he skippered Cresselly to victory, he gets the nod here.

His two tournament knocks of 57 not out and 49 not out were the highest in the competition, and he also picked up eight wickets - including a five for in the semi final.

Game of the season: Carew 3rds v Neyland 3rds in the Ken Morris Cup

The Ken Morris doesn’t enjoy the same exposure as the more esteemed competitions, but it runs extremely well and this summer, provided two final ball thrillers.

A boundary from Tomos Lewis saw Crymych beat Cresselly 3rds at the death but the winner goes to the game which provided the only tie of the local campaign.

Neyland 3rds made 142-4 at Carew in their opening group match, before 81 from Jacob Knox gave The Rooks a real chance with their reply. Needing three to win off the final ball, they got two of them and honours ended even.

Umpire Ian Milsom later said he had ‘the best seat in the house’.

Club of the season: Pembroke Dock.

For a shortened season to work, the clubs needed to buy into the concept and help each other out. And The Dock certainly did that.

On what was an awful day of weather, they were able to get the Bowl semi final between Haverfordwest and Burton at Imble Lane to start on time, and then completed without a single delay. That was testament to sensible umpiring and a tireless morning of work from the ground staff.

Thanks to Nick Daley, the club also hosted a thankyou match for the NHS which raised more than £2500 - and agreed to host the women’s final at short notice, a softball festival, and junior county matches.

They also continued to arrange friendlies after their cup interests were ended, something many clubs understandably found difficult to do.

I don’t think I need to justify this any further - but they serve a nice pint too.

Unsung hero of the season: Richard Howell

Endless candidates, and too many runners up to mention.

But as mentioned, the Ken Morris Cup always runs superbly and this is due to the work of Richard Howell, who this season ensured eight teams took part and all games were fulfilled. Not only did it provide a chance for third team cricketers to shine, but handed competitive games to old boys and lower league first team sides as well.

For Narberth he organised, umpired, scored, and even played in fixtures and still had things scheduled right up until September 19th.

Nice guy too.

Telegraph Sport team of the season (varied selection criteria):

Tim Hicks (Carew) – Scores of 52, 21, and 49 against Whitland, Cresselly and Neyland in what proved a tough Bowl draw for Carew.

Sam Kurtz (Crymych) – Crymych enjoyed a busy summer and captain Kurtz had knocks of 87 and 48 in the Alan Brown, plus a 75 not out in the Ken Morris. And the first two scores came on a pitch where the ball didn’t bounce.

Ashley Sutton (Neyland) – Not repeating myself.

Richard Reed (Llanrhian) – Captained Llanrhian to another Alan Brown Cup, hitting a half century in the final to win man of the match. Did drop me for a Bowl tie in Lamphey but I won’t be childish about this.

Dan Field (Haverfordwest 2nds) – The Town didn’t retain the Colley, but Field’s tally of 155 runs in three games (with a 94 not out) gave him an average of 77.5 for the summer. I’d settle for it.

Shaun Whitfield (Carew) – Crucial to Carew with bat and ball. A knock of 40 not out helped his side past Cresselly, and his five wicket haul had Neyland in trouble in the quarter final before, like always, they recovered.

Adam James (Haverfordwest) – See ball, hit ball. His 62 not out in the semi final against Burton, made off just 37 balls, was the best knock in the Bowl. Not bad with ball in hand either.

Andrew Miller (Neyland) – Still bowls the most bamboozling pies in Pembrokeshire cricket. 18 wickets in five Bowl games.

Sean Hannon *wk (Neyland) – Kept well. Captained well. Will copy and paste those four words for this time next year.

Steve Williams (St Ishmaels 2nds) – Tish 2nds can boast some wily old foxes with the ball. Stuart Carpenter, Kevin Bowen, Robbie Thomas, Williams etc. The latter gets the nod after 11 wickets in the team’s run to the Colley final – at a ridiculously economical rate.

Matthew Johns (Narberth) – It’s his Bowl quarter final display against The Town that seals selection. Under pressure, against a strong batting line up, Johns produced figures of two wickets for four runs in six overs. A remarkable effort in any circumstances.

12th man: Ollie Goulstone (Crymych) – Nothing to do with his cricket ability, he'll proclaim himself he's useless. But he entertained immensely all summer on social media.