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Clubs given green light to return to 11-a-side cricket, provided they follow social distancing rules

Recreational clubs have been given the green light to return to 11-a-side cricket, provided they follow social distancing and hygiene guidelines.

This week the England and Wales Cricket Board was pleased to signal a progression from step 3 to step 4 on the roadmap for the return of the professional game, and several local sides – including Cookham Dean and Maidenhead & Bray CC – were lining up friendly matches this weekend in response to this.

There are various new protocols players will need to abide by, both before, during and after the game, but most will be eager to implement these if it allows them to play competitive cricket again.

The matches can be 11-a-side but players must attempt to remain socially distant during play.

They’ll have to bring their own equipment to games and no sweat or saliva is allowed to be applied to the ball during the game.

The wicket keeper and slip fielders must stay at least one metre away from each other/the batsman and batters have to run in ‘distinct running lines’ to ensure they are not within two metres of others.

Clubs are advised to adhere to the latest government advice in terms of the use of clubhouse and changing facilities, but it is expected players will arrive and leave in their kits to minimise the need to use these facilities.

Dave Brooks, a player at Cookham Dean CC, said: “I think there were indications last week, when we had the u-turn from Government, that 11-a-side would work.

“But the most welcome part of the announcement is them saying, as long as you can do this in a safe manner, you can play whatever form of cricket you want to play, against whoever you want to play against. But this is what safe looks like.

“We've now got to make sure we've got all the right protocols in place to segregate players from spectators. We'll have six senior men's teams out this weekend, four on Saturday and two on Sunday.

“We've got a women and girls competition running on Sunday morning and we'll have two u13s games running on Saturday morning, as well as all the normal nets activity.

“That's all being geared up and we now know we can deliver that and the demand for cricket from both our younger and older members has been incredible.”

So far there’s been no official response from the Thames Valley Cricket League to the updated guidance from the ECB, however, it is hoping to run a nine-match season, starting from July 18.

There won’t be any relegation or promotion from the divisions, or penalties imposed if teams have to forfeit matches.

The win/lose format matches will be played over either 40/45 overs, and the season could either be extended, or an extra game played on the August Bank Holiday Monday, to accommodate the fixtures.

The Home Counties League are in the process of arranging a mini league where clubs would play eight games on a regional basis. But the details of this are still being worked through.

On Wednesday the ECB tweeted: “We are in the process of briefing across the game to allow preparation to take place ahead of the weekend. Our new guidelines will allow for competitive 11-a-side cricket with no mandated format in terms of overs.

“There will be additional adaptations to account for hygiene and social distancing.”

Last week the ECB said it was delighted by the Government’s change of heart over the return of recreational cricket.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson had cast doubt over the game’s return when he called a cricket ball ‘a vector of disease’, but after discussions with the ECB it was agreed measures could be put in place to mitigate the risk of spreading the disease.

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