Stokes: Why open up pubs be­fore cricket clubs?

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport - By Nick Hoult

Ben Stokes be­lieves it is time for club cricket to re­turn and can­not un­der­stand how it is still deemed un­safe yet pubs can re­open.

Stokes learnt the game play­ing for Cock­er­mouth in the North West and re­turned a week af­ter win­ning the World Cup last sum­mer to show off his medal, when he was made a life mem­ber. He said at the time: “I’ll never for­get where ev­ery­thing started and that’s here.”

Now he has joined Joe Root, Heather Knight, Sir An­drew Strauss, Michael Vaughan and Sir Ge­of­frey Boy­cott to back The Daily

Tele­graph cam­paign for the re­turn of grass-roots cricket.

“Yes, I think club cricket should start. I saw a quote from Mark Wood say­ing, ‘You don’t want to miss out on the next Eng­land su­per­star’. For club cricket to be put back, but pubs open again on Satur­day is a bit strange to com­pre­hend and I know that peo­ple are ab­so­lutely des­per­ate,” he said.

“I have friends who play in the leagues in the North East and Cum­bria who are just dy­ing to get back out on the field. Ev­ery­body needs some­thing, and peo­ple who love cricket are just des­per­ate to start play­ing, and the quicker that hap­pens the bet­ter. I just don’t re­ally see why it can’t hap­pen, es­pe­cially when you see the other things that are al­lowed to hap­pen.”

The Eng­land and Wales Cricket Board last week sub­mit­ted plans for how cricket could be made as Covid-safe as pos­si­ble and is hope­ful the Gov­ern­ment will give per­mis­sion for a re­sump­tion by the end of the week. If that hap­pens club cricket could restart as soon as the week­end start­ing July 11.

Last week Prime Min­is­ter Boris John­son de­scribed the ball as a “nat­u­ral vec­tor of dis­ease”.

Our sea­son be­gan on Sun­day af­ter­noon, al­most three months be­hind sched­ule.

My term as the new pres­i­dent of Hin­ton Char­ter­house CC had not gone well – our cen­te­nary din­ner at Bath’s As­sem­bly Rooms (with guest speak­ers David Lloyd and Vic Marks) had been can­celled, our cen­te­nary match v Bun­bury XI (cap­tain Mar­cus Trescoth­ick) can­celled – so the least I could do was de­vise a for­mat to get us out there again, play­ing, within gov­ern­ment guide­lines.

Cricket has been elas­tic enough to adapt it­self to some strict pa­ram­e­ters. It has been played aboard ship and on ice, even on sand­banks in the English Chan­nel. There have been matches be­tween Smok­ers and Non-Smok­ers, be­tween OneArmed and One-Legged – a fix­ture which was par­tic­u­larly wide­spread af­ter the Crimean War.

There used to be sin­gle-wicket matches, pop­u­lar be­cause they were sim­ple for bet­ting (will A or B win?), which was rel­e­vant for this new for­mat, which can­not have more than six peo­ple on the field.

At the pro­jected start­ing time of noon, af­ter wait­ing since mid-April in the sun­ni­est of sum­mers, it rained. Two hours later it was a per­fect af­ter­noon for cricket – a fresh breeze from the west, blue skies over Hin­ton – ex­cept the Gov­ern­ment would not per­mit a game or match.

So, six pi­o­neers set out to make the most of our sit­u­a­tion – which is, ul­ti­mately, the se­cret of liv­ing – and have as much com­pet­i­tive fun as we were al­lowed.

The ob­jec­tive was to keep to the Laws of Cricket wher­ever pos­si­ble – no ar­ti­fi­cial­i­ties like a bats­man los­ing 10 runs ev­ery time he got out – so the only big change was one bor­rowed from the sin­gle-wicket for­mat: to com­plete a sin­gle, the bats­man had to run to the non-striker’s end and back to his crease. As one player bat­ted, and a sec­ond kept wicket, that left one to bowl and three to field, with a min­i­mum of one fielder on each side of the pitch.

It was rel­a­tively sim­ple. The four field­ers bowled one over each. The bats­man faced a max­i­mum of 24 balls. A lot of run­ning had to be done, as there should be in a for­mat which lasts only an hour and a half or so. Each bowler used his own ball, and a bot­tle of sani­tiser was po­si­tioned be­hind the stumps.

Since it was ev­ery­one’s first time in the mid­dle this sea­son, the bats­man was al­lowed one “life”. Boy, did some of our lads cash in: three passed 40, one reached 55, and our first XI vice-cap­tain Jim, built like a tank, hit his first ball for six and went on to score 66. Bowlers learnt that it pays to beat the bat.

So, that was one semi-fi­nal, so to speak. Then we had the sec­ond with an­other six play­ers – and not mere mod­esty, but shame for­bids me to sup­ply those de­tails. Suf­fice, I was not one of the six high­est run-scorers – spread over the two semis – to qual­ify for the fi­nal.

To give a game to as many play­ers as pos­si­ble – not a gov­ern­ment pri­or­ity – we had to self-po­lice: bet­ter to have six play­ers on the field than five and one um­pire. The wick­et­keeper had to be trusted to ad­ju­di­cate on wides and lbw. But the scorer-cum-um­pire, sit­ting side-on out­side the bound­ary, ad­ju­di­cated on run-outs and no-balls.

For the fi­nal, we de­cided on no lives. In other words: there was to be more em­pha­sis on bat­ting, less on hit­ting. But ow­ing to the morn­ing rain and de­layed start it was get­ting late, and ev­ery­body had been given a de­cent runaround, so the fi­nal was not staged.

The scorer-cum-um­pire, po­si­tioned out­side the bound­ary, ad­ju­di­cated on run-outs and no-balls

One unan­i­mous ver­dict was that, to save time next week­end, we will splice the semi-fi­nals to­gether i.e. af­ter the first bats­man in Team 1 has bat­ted, while ev­ery­one comes off the field to wash hands and pad up, Team 2 will go out and their first bats­man will have his in­nings. Then the sec­ond bats­man in Team 1 will bat. Might need one scor­ing um­pire for each game so he or she does not get con­fused.

The other change might be to bor­row from the sin­gle-wicket for­mat again: runs not to be scored be­hind the wicket. One pro­posal was to place our por­ta­ble net be­side the wick­et­keeper, so the bats­man could not score from edges, but that means ev­ery­one has to bowl from the same end, which is an ar­ti­fi­cial re­stric­tion – a ma­jor one for cer­tain types of bowler on cer­tain grounds.

Our Hin­ton Sixes made for com­pet­i­tive fun with bat and ball, and play­ers from the ages of 13 to 66 mixed to­gether – with so­cial dis­tanc­ing of course – and a lot of us woke up stiff the next morn­ing, happy that a sea­son of sorts had be­gun. Bet­ter than noth­ing, but a pas­time for in­di­vid­u­als. Not a team… game as cricket should be.

Leader: Ben Stokes, bowl­ing at the Ageas Bowl yes­ter­day, has been named cap­tain as Joe Root is likely to miss the first Test against West Indies for the birth of his sec­ond child

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