Surprise U-turn allows New Forest cricket clubs to swing open

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Bashley (Rydal)’s Alex Turner in action last season in the Southern Premier League against Alton

RECREATIONAL cricket will make its long-awaited return Saturday after a surprise U-turn by the UK government.

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson had previously stated that it was not yet safe to play the game at grassroots level due to issues concerning teas and dressing rooms and called the cricket ball a ‘natural vector of disease’.

However, in a later briefing, Johnson said the government would produce guidelines this week to help clubs and players prepare for cricket’s return.

The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) released a statement on their Twitter expressing that the game is safe to return: “The ECB believes that cricket is a non-contact sport, with very low risks of exposure, and that it can be played as safely as many other activities being currently permitted.

“The detailed submission we have shared with the Department For Digital, Culture, Media and Sport includes advice on how we can stage cricket safely and mitigate all potential risks.

“We believe this advice – allied with strict hygiene measures – means recreational cricket should be viewed as safe by the UK Government, which would be welcome news to our nation’s recreational cricketers.”

The news impacts clubs across the region which can now open their doors for the first time this summer. The Southern Premier League has arranged a league cup for their teams while Hampshire Cricket League clubs will play friendlies until the campaign concludes.

New Milton Cricket Club chairman Steve Taylor was delighted that the sport will have a season this year and is anticipating a busy schedule. He told the A&T: “It’s fantastic news for NMCC and all our local clubs that grassroots cricket is allowed to get going at last.

“All the boys and girls have been chomping at the bit for a while now. The committee has been planning for a while now, on how to make the club a safe environment for all to enjoy their cricket.

“Hopefully, we can all have a fantastic finish to our summer, and let’s hope the weather continues to be kind to us.”

Taylor added: “If you want to come and have a game or just visit the club for a safe beverage, we are open most evenings and weekends. We hope to have a full fixture list from 11th July onwards.”

David Marshall, who is the development manager at Sway Cricket Club told the A&T that they are ‘delighted to resume cricket matches’.

Marshall continued: “Our juniors, ladies, and senior teams have already been training within the existing ECB and Government guidelines but this is, of course, no substitute for actually playing the game.

“There can be no doubt that the lockdown will have a significant impact on cricket clubs, both financially and in terms of participation.

“To try and mitigate this, we are planning as much cricket as possible over the next two months for junior and senior members alike as well as social events to bring the Club together.”

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