Formed forty years ago, Doghouse Cricket Club - of which the column is a vice-president - was so named because many of its married members would thereafter be playing on both Saturday and Sunday and not (shall we say) be in the best of odours at home.

Now, alas, there's also a bit of a stink elsewhere. As usual in such cases, the animosity arises from a friendly.

Doghouse, proclaimed in their year book to be "supreme ambassadors for the sport in the North-East" and to play "fun cricket which can be taken seriously", have just had their annual trip to Kirklington, near Bedale.

Kirklington had won their league the previous day. Some of their players, warned home captain Neil Craddock, might have been celebrating quite hard on Saturday night.

The Teesside-based visitors, including several NYSD League players and former Durham County batsman Mark Symington, were 94 when the first wicket fell in the 24th over.

That's when Symington joined David Cross, when the pace changed and when the trouble started.

Ten overs later, Doghouse had knocked up almost 300, Craddock himself having been despatched for 80 in four overs.

"There were balls bouncing off roofs, going into corn fields and into the wood," says Doghouse chairman David Lewis.

"Every over was lasting a quarter of an hour, because so many balls were being lost."

After 34 of the allotted 40 overs, claim the Doghouse, Craddock threatened to take his side off unless the onslaught ceased.

Doghouse captain Graham Dransfield, it's said, told his men just to push singles until Cross, who plays on Saturdays for Normanby Hall, completed his double century. They declared after 38 overs on 308.

"It was the best exhibition of batting I've seen since the West Indian international Irving Shillingford played for us," says Lewis. "By the end, unfortunately, there was a really bad atmosphere."

After the tea break, it's said, Doghouse and the umpires waited almost 30 minutes on the field before Kirklington reappeared. They were finally dismissed for 171, Dransfield taking 4-23.

Craddock hasn't returned the column's calls. Lewis supposes that the annual friendly may now be in some doubt.

"I've never in my life heard of the bowling side threatening to walk off if the opposition didn't ease up.

"If we play them again, we're going to bat left handed."

Coincidence, no doubt, an invitation also arrived to attend a performance by the Doghouse Skiffle Group at Gainford Village Hall last Saturday night - washboard, tea chest, the whole drapes and Donegan lot. Tail between the legs, we were unfortunately unable to boogie along.

Gordon Woodcock retired from village cricket for the second time on Saturday, insisting that this time it was for good. The spirit's willing, the knees knackered.

Gordon's 56, has played on an off for East Cowton since 1977, scored one century, batted - he says - in a manner designed to send spectators to sleep.

"I could usually score 50 in 40 overs. It wasn't very exciting."

Half way etween Darlington and Northallerton, East Cowton play in the Darlington and District League - where there's no limit on the number of overs a player can bowl. Parting shot, Gordon wishes that there were.

"One of the reasons that teams find it harder and harder to attract players is that the youngsters aren't getting a chance.

"If they brought in a rule that a player could only bowl eight out of the 40 overs there'd be more chance for younger batsmen and bowlers. It's so important for the future of cricket; at the moment the youngsters are just drifting away."

Though East Cowton lost to Spennymoor on Saturday - one of the few games not flooded out - Gordon made 35, was given a bottle of champagne and had a good night. "I doubt," says club secretary Neil Whelpton, "if he'll remember much about it."

Impossible to talk of older hands and of the Cowtons without thinking of 79-year-old Bill Smith, North Cowton lad who - last we heard - was still playing Monday morning five-a-side football at the Dolphin Centre in Darlington with former Quakers' players almost half his age. Our calls remained unanswered. It was Monday morning, he was probably out playing football.

Lest it have been overlooked on a final day of plentiful permutations, it should be noted that our friends at Evenwood Cricket Club won the Durham County League for the second successive season.

A note from club chairman Kevin Richardson also invites us to the presentation night on November 1 and promises after the last rather less than erotic affair that this time there'll be no strippers.

There is a further problem, however. November 1 is not only the lady of this house's birthday but also our silver wedding anniversary, posing the dilemma of whether to attend the planned party or a beano with Bulldog Billy Teesdale.

Like the Durham County Cricket League, it's going to be a very close call.

So back at last to the football field, where Norton and Stockton Ancients manager Ray Morton - promoted last week to detective chief inspector in charge of the regional drugs intelligence unit based at Durham - had another case to crack on Saturday.

At first they thought that the launderette has simply given the Ancients' black and amber strip to another team by mistake. Then, when things started to come out in the wash, they concluded that the strip had been stolen.

Fearing a fine for playing in the wrong colours, the Albany Northern League side borrowed the reserve team strip. DCI Morton, meanwhile, is pursuing his enquiries.

"I'm sure someone will come clean," he says.

The Albany Northern League magazine, back for a fifteenth fun filled season, notes another of the stings and arrows of football at the grass roots.

League secretary Tony Golightly, former chief executive of Chester-le-Street district council, was conducting a ground inspection at Alnwick when bitten over the eye by a malevolent Northumberland insect and forced to seek urgent attention from his GP.

Tony's recovered. "I'm trying to decide what Alnwick will be charged with," he says.

And finally...

our last column sought the identity of the 11 English cricketers still playing who at the start of this season had taken between one and five Test match wickets.

They were Chris Adams, Umir Afzaal, Min Patel and Marcus Trescothick all with one, James Ormond and Adam Hollioake (two), Ronnie Irani (three), Michael Vaughan, Martin Bicknell and Mark Ramprakash (four) and the unfortunate Simon Jones with five.

Since we've spent much of the column in the doghouse, readers may today care to name the Football League team known as the Terriers.

Rough with the smooth again on Friday.

Published: 23/09/2003