IT seems a long time ago that guest speaker, former England all-rounder and selector Geoff Miller, wowed his audience at the Halifax Cricket League's annual dinner at The Venue in Barkisland.

Coronavirus may have already been breaking out in China, but it was a word that not many people were aware of back in November 2019.

How different the world looks now, with Halifax League secretary Tim Helliwell calling Covid-19 a "lightning strike" in terms of their 2020 season.

However, coronavirus was not the first problem to confront the league in a year when they changed their main sponsor from the long-serving Spenser Wilson Accountants to ENCO Ltd, fabricators and specialists in the manufacture and supply of pipework and associated products.

Spring then brought what seemed an almost annual flooding of some Halifax League clubs, with Bridgeholme again coming off worst.

In his annual secretary's report, Helliwell stated: "I visited the club shortly after it had been hit and it seemed to me there would be no way back, but, knowing the resilience there, as at all our clubs, it is not surprising they will be back for 2021."

Then the impact of coronavirus began to escalate.

Helliwell continued: "The spread of Covid-19 throughout the world made the playing of cricket in 2020 appear extremely unlikely.

"The league's management board met on March 18 in an office at the Piece Hall, just prior to lockdown, to confirm the ECB's announcement that all forms of recreational cricket would be suspended until further notice.

"All league meetings were cancelled, the season was put on hold and the much-heralded event at the Piece Hall to promote our game was postponed until 2021 - now potentially 2022."

The management board met monthly via Zoom and a decision was taken to cancel the league's T20 competition, then the Crossley Shield (cup for second teams), then the Rod Warhurst Cup (cup for third teams) and eventually the Parish Cup (cup for first teams).

Financial support arrived for the league and their clubs via the government, in the form of grants from local councils, while the YCB and ECB also had funds available, and loans were to be had from high-street banks on attractive terms.

Outdoor cricket practice was allowed from mid-May in a limited fashion, and plans were laid by the league to start the season on either July 4, 11, 18 or 25 and to play half a season's fixtures, albeit with no promotion or relegation.

A total of 37 umpires made themselves available - the actual number turned out to be more - and the league's junior section started matches on July 20 and continued until the nights were drawing in.

As it happened, the senior teams started on July 18 (first teams), July 25 (second teams) and July 26 (Sunday League).

Some clubs opted not to participate while others reduced their number of teams, all without punishment.

The Covid-19 protocols (one-way system indoors, sanitation breaks after every six overs etc) were followed and despite second XI fixtures not being confirmed until three days before they started, and initial issues with Kirklees Council about access to grounds and the number of people in situ, cricket was played up to and including the weekend of September 19-20.

Champions were Triangle, Great Horton Park Chapel and Queensbury (first teams); Blackley and Illingworth St Mary's (second teams); and Triangle, Booth and Outlane (Sunday teams).

Andrew Whiteley (league fixtures secretary), Andrew Mitchell (umpires) and Steve Archer (YCB) were singled out for special praise from Helliwell, as were the clubs themselves for the way that they conducted themselves on and off the field.

He concluded: "Although things seem unlikely to be back to normal for next season, at least we have a blueprint to work with to be ready for April 2021."