If last April’s mini-heatwave was what persuaded the Derbyshire Cricket League to bring forward the start of the 2012 season by a week, this year’s sog-fest might prompt a re-think.
Almost two-thirds of Saturday’s games were washed out and it is a credit to the Erewash ground staff and the quick-draining Ilkeston soil that all three of Rutland’s teams completed their opening fixtures.
For Rutland’s 1st XI, relegated emphatically from the Premier League last season, it was a chance to test the temperature in Division One with newly-promoted Cutthorpe providing the opposition.
The visitors won the toss and asked Rutland to bat on a soft, wet wicket. Openers David Smit and Michael Chambers began cautiously against some gentle seam bowling; Smit seemingly unable to believe just how slowly the ball was heading towards him.
That changed at the end of the sixth over when he launched a short ball from Steven Chapman for six and broke the shackles.
With a slow outfield, the aerial route offered the fast track to success and Smit’s 93 contained seven sixes, several of which threatened the traffic on Oakwell Drive.
Chambers, a winter recruit from Nutbrook, batted with great caution but helped add 128 for the first wicket before being caught for 34 in the 30th over.
Smit departed shortly afterwards, caught and bowled by the admirable Nigel Kingham, Cutthorpe’s seventh choice of bowler who ended with 4 for 59.
Rutland then capitalised on their solid start with a 73-run partnership between Luke Marriott (23) and Damien Jones.
Jones’s contribution was a particular delight. After being the 2nd XI’s batsman of the year in 2010 he missed almost all of last season after suffering a broken jaw but returned in style to record his first half-century for the 1st XI.
After starting slowly, he exploded into life with five fours and two sixes and his 58 took him just 54 deliveries.
It helped Rutland to 241 for 6 from their 50 overs, a target which soon took on mountainous proportions as Cutthorpe struggled to score.
Rob Green did not concede a run off the bat until his sixth over and his new ball partner, Sam Moulds proved even more of a handful, claming the first three wickets of the innings.
With no hope of winning the match, Cutthorpe quickly settled for survival and the interest was in whether Rutland could claim all ten wickets and 27 points.
This they failed to do, despite three wickets from Danny Bobeszko’s off-spin, and the visitors closed on 97 for 7 to take four points to Rutland’s 19.
Their next game at Matlock on Saturday should provide a sterner examination of their form but they will take heart from the batting of Jones and the bowling of Moulds, two men who were missing from the Ilkeston Rutland ranks in 2011.
The 2nd XI visited Darley Dale in Division Four North and both teams struggled to come to terms with the slow pace of the soggy wicket.
The home side batted first and were entirely unable to make any headway against the accurate seam bowling of Ian Banks.
A fixture of Rutland’s 1st XI for over two decades, Banks is now captain of the 2nd XI and his first ten overs saw only one run come from the bat.
Darley were struggling to score at two runs per over until their number six Robert Lightfoot got to grips with the soft wicket and began middling the ball.
He took 20 off the 32nd over of the innings - the cricketing equivalent of going from first gear to fifth, and his 49 helped Darley close on 148 for 9.
If the spectators thought that was a little dull, they hadn’t seen anything yet. Rutland’s batsmen also found scoring nye-on impossible and, after losing four wickets before half-way for only 42 runs, they shut up shop for the losing draw.
They closed on 79 for 6 from 46 overs to take six points from the game.
There was far more excitement at Gallows Inn where an inexperienced Rutland 3rd XI almost broke a club record that has stood for 133 years.
It was back in 1879 that a Rutland side were bowled out for just 14 by Ironville and Codnor Park.
Mercifully, that all-time low has rarely been threatened in the intervening years, but on Saturday it was on the brink of being lowered as Rutland found themselves 12 for 9.
Ironically, it was again Codnor who were the destroyers, but their place in history was snatched away by a tenth wicket stand of 25 between Dan Blake (16) and Ainsley Hallam (8 not out).
Earlier in the day, Codnor had made 204 for 8 with Darren Colson making 78 and Hallam the pick of Rutland’s bowlers with 2 for 37 from 14 overs.