Cricket clubs planning for return of league action

North Devon welcomed Bideford to the Sandhills in July 2020

North Devon welcomed Bideford to the Sandhills for the resumption of cricket in July 2020 - Credit: Matt Smart

Clubs in North Devon have started planning for the return of league cricket this summer now an end to the recreational sporting lockdown is in sight.

League cricket was among the sports given the go-ahead to resume activity from March 29 following publication of the government’s roadmap back to normality last week.

Fixtures for the Tolchards Devon Cricket League were drawn up some time ago and are due to run for 18 weeks from May 1.

Resuming recreational sport might be delayed if there is an upsurge in Covid-19 infection rates again, but Devon League officials are confident the competition will be in full swing from May 1.

Phil Bees, the league’s fixture secretary, said as long as infection rates continue to fall it should be all systems go.

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“Providing the four government requirements are met, and outside sport recommences on March 29, clubs will be able to organise a full pre-season,” said Bees.

“We see no reason at this stage why we can’t have a complete season starting on May 1.”

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Constituent bodies such as cricket boards and cricket league still don’t know whether pavilions will be open for changing, sheltering from bad weather, teas and post-match refreshments in the summer ahead.

Devon League cricket played in an eight-week window in the second half of last season had no pavilion facilities or teas, although drinks were available under tight supervision.

The ECB have issued no guidelines to leagues yet and until they do the pavilion question remains unanswered.

“We will continue to monitor the situation and await further announcements from the ECB and the government as to what will be possible and what will not,” said Bees.

Tom Popham, who will be leading North Devon in the A Division, added: “Bringing back the extra competitiveness the league provides is massive.

“That edge was missed last year and would have been hugely missed again this season so it's a welcome return to normal cricket.

“Had we played another season like last year then there would have been a danger of losing players to other things.

“I am sure people will have a desire to play like never before.”

Alex Hannam, captain of B Division Bideford, said: “Everyone is buzzing for the start of the season.

“No players have drifted away and everyone seems more keen than ever.”

Jon Baglow, one of Braunton’s senior players and a former captain of the C East club, said the consequences of another disrupted season did not bear thinking about.

Braunton's Jon Baglow

Braunton's Jon Baglow - Credit: Alex Walton

“I think it is a good thing that the full league programme will go ahead,” said Baglow.

“We didn't lose any players last year; we actually gained a couple. However, if the small, local league stayed for too long I think players would start to disappear.”

Baglow said he was unenthusiastic about the cut-down format played in 2020, but once cricket started he changed his view.

“With some new players, Callum Mitchell in charge and Steve Moore back, there was a real enthusiasm to learn and listen and we played some decent cricket,” said Baglow.

“It will be a good test this year as if you take Steve (56) and myself (46) out, we have a young side. I will be interested to see how we get on."

Baglow said he had some concerns over pavilion facilities and is eager to see the ECB guidelines. Another concern is preparation.

“Prep time leading into the season for training and nets is also a concern,” said Baglow.

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