A CRICKETER and a teaching assistant joined forces to make a cricket bat bench after vandals set fire to memorial seats at a club.

Farnworth Cricket Club’s Chris Baxendale and teaching assistant and bat fixer Ian Jones, from Bolton, spent all year completing the project in and out of lockdown for Atherton Cricket Club, which had 20 of their memorial benches stolen and set alight last year.

Chris asked people to donate bats to make the bench and was sent around 40 in total. After sifting through the bunch, the duo completed the bench in July and presented it to the club last week.

Ian said: “We saw what happened about the memorial benches and as part of the local cricket community, I wanted to do something.

“Chris contacted me asking if I had bats to donate and I asked if he needed help with it. But it’s taken this long because the weather is so inconsistent and because of the pandemic.”

The memorial benches were set on fire on an overflow car park at the neighbouring Howe Bridge Leisure Centre. The benches cost £250 apiece, adding up to £5,000 worth of damage.

Chris and Ian spent a session together in February, where Ian started the frame but lockdown halted progress.

Ian said: “I work at a school, so I had to be careful, but it was a good project to work on and I’m glad I got involved.”

Ian has also run a cricket bat and billiard repair firm Bat/Cue Man Yan (BMY) since last year and said: "I do a lot of woodwork, but this was something I had not taken up before while working in my business.

"It was difficult because building a bench out of bats and repairing bats are two different things. I also did not have the equipment to do this. But I did what I could with what I had.”

Chris and Ian took off the rubber and cut off bits they didn’t need before checking the sizes to ensure the bench would be even. They then sanded down the bats stuck together to make it comfortable.

Chris said: “I thought of it but it’s really Ian who did a lot. I’ve never done anything like this before bit I wanted to give back to the families who lost the benches.”

The club's crowdfunding appeal for new benches is now at just over £5,000.