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Cricketers have got catching up to do!

Net sessions as club hopes season already shortened by virus can be salvaged

22 May, 2020 — By Steve Barnett

Hampstead CC’s Andy Collier bowling to Seb Gemes during practice in the nets this week

GREEN shoots of sport could be seen this week as tennis, golf and fishing clubs started welcoming back their much-missed members.

And cricketers also got in on the action, with Hampstead Cricket Club among those who reopened their nets for the first time this year amid the coronavirus outbreak.

The ECB, cricket’s governing body in England and Wales, has said two people from different households can net together outside in accordance with the government’s new exercise guidelines.

One-on-one coaching is also permitted, but social distancing – keeping at least two metres apart at all times – must apply. No sweat or saliva should be rubbed on the ball, and nets should be operated so that two adjacent lanes are never in use at the same time.

Reflecting on the wave of early interest, Hampstead CC chairman Nick Brown said: “We opened the nets on Monday and the feedback so far has been positive.

“The options for people in the way of exercise have been limited to walking, jogging, cycling and such, so the nets represent something different for people to do.”

While seeing some sports clubs reopen will offer a great deal of comfort to many, there are still plenty of hurdles to overcome before a competitive edge can return in any shape or form.

Cricketers from Camden and Islington would usually be playing in various leagues and competitions across the county by now.

Nick, who took over as Hampstead chairman in 2016 and is also the secretary of the Middlesex County Cricket League, revealed it will be at least another seven weeks before a competitive ball is bowled. He said he still feels having a campaign that results in champions being crowned and at least one team being relegated “is difficult but do-able”, adding: “We would usually be two games into the season by now. We have already cancelled the first half of the season in the Middlesex County League, which takes us up to and including July 4.

“One option is that we could still play a nine-game season – that would allow all the clubs to play each other once.

“We usually play every Saturday but we could manage to play nine matches in seven weeks if we played on an odd Sunday or bank holiday.

“Ultimately it would have to be decided by the clubs.”

Exploring some of the challenges that would need to be overcome, Nick spoke about sanitising the ball before games and players washing their hands straight after they leave the field.

“Cricket is a non-contact sport, and for the most part players are distanced from each other,” he said. “Only the wicketkeeper impinges the two-metre social-distancing measure. They could wear a mask.

“In my personal view, if it was a choice between them wearing a mask or no cricket, the choice would be to wear a mask.

“I think most wicketkeepers would agree to do that if it meant getting the game back on.”

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