CLUBS across Gloucestershire have been praised for their efforts that ensured a tremendous amount of cricket was still played this summer despite the Coronavirus crisis.
For many weeks there were concerns that no matches at all would take place this year because of lockdown restrictions.
But in early July cricket was the first team sport to be given the green light to return, and leagues and clubs responded by quickly moving to organise competitive games in a safe, socially-distanced environment as required by the Government and the ECB.
The West of England Premier League, Gloucestershire County League and Bristol & District League were amongst those who ripped up their scheduled competitions and devised 2020-only groups, with no promotion or relegation and reduced regulations, to encourage cricketers to return.
And the response was overwhelmingly positive as players across the entire recreational arm of the sport flocked back.
Steve Silk, the chief executive of the Gloucestershire Cricket Board, said: “The response has been absolutely outstanding.
“We’ve seen clubs and leagues working collaboratively and amicably to ensure cricket made the most of this chance and it’s been so pleasing to watch people get on with it and ensure that cricket is being played in the safest possible way.
“Across the county, I would say that about 95 per cent of our clubs have played some cricket this summer. That’s a wonderful response in challenging circumstances.
“There was a concern about the financial impact the pandemic might have on club finances, but we were more worried about people having a complete summer off and not returning next year.
“What we’ve seen, instead, is that playing numbers at many clubs have gone up. Golden Hill, in Bristol, were able to select seven Saturday sides several times while in the north of the county Dumbleton and Cirencester put out four teams for the first time.
“The mini leagues are now complete, but a very high number of clubs have decided to play on much further into September with friendlies than they usually do because of demand for matches.”
This response to the pandemic has also encouraged leagues and clubs to look again at the structure of the season.
Silk added: “Junior cricket is a good example. Before this year, matches always used to be rushed into a short period of time from the end of April until the schools broke up, but we can now see that the junior season could go on longer.
“It’s clear there are some real opportunities for the sport and some big conversations for all of us to have over the coming weeks and months.”