WHILST this is supposed to be one of the busiest times of the year for cricket clubs in and around Bolton, clubhouses remain empty as the country struggles in lockdown, writes CHLOE HEGG

The Greater Manchester Cricket League was supposed to start last month, but the future of the season is in jeopardy due to the outbreak of the coronavirus.

In Edgworth, the first Friday night nets session of the season was spent indoors in front of the TV, no different to every other night in lockdown.

These evenings are the highlight of the week for many locals, as they mark the end of the winter months and the start of glorious summer weeks ahead.

David Enright, Edgworth Cricket Club chairman said: “These are very challenging times for society as a whole.

“I do think that any cricket towards the back end of the summer months would be a bonus and would also create an opportunity to bring people together, at a safe distance, as well as raise spirits in the local community.”

The clubhouse plays an ever-increasing role within the community and aims to promote sport and recreation to the village and its visitors.

Last summer Edgworth completed their first season since their £250,000 development which boasts new changing rooms, an umpires’ room and a players’ viewing gallery.

The first team narrowly missed out on promotion back up to Premier League of the GMCL but last season now seems a distant memory, as sport is hardly a priority amid the global pandemic.

Enright said: “The ECB and Government are working to formulate plans for cricket season to restart as soon as it is safe to do so.

“There will, undoubtedly, be changes to matchdays to enable this to happen.

“The Greater Manchester Cricket League has been excellent in terms of communication with the member clubs, passing down information and gathering club’s opinions to feed upwards to the ECB through Zoom meetings.

“There is a hope that cricket will start again as close to July as possible.”

In April this year, the cricket club also saw the completion of their new outdoor nets facility but with the current situation, they are yet to be used, the club working to make their practice facilities safe in line with ECB and Government guidelines.

Enright said: “Before the cricket restarts, there will be some groundwork improvements to extend the run up to the new fixed nets and drainage improvements to the field in front of the new clubhouse.

“The club will also undertake a number of other improvements which include an upgrade to the carpark and external painting of the clubhouse and decking, which will be completed by a number of members kindly giving up their free time.”

The Bolton News:

During the lockdown around 220 social members have paid their annual membership fees in addition to more than 90 junior and 30 senior cricketers.

Enright said: “This is a fantastic achievement and shows that Edgworth Cricket Club is at the centre of the village community. The monies paid will assist the club’s cashflow during these difficult times.

“This time of the year is the busiest for the cricket club and the money generated supports it through the quieter months. Once we have received the green light to restart the game, the costs associated with hosting cricket matches without the revenue stream of the bar to compensate, will be a challenge.

“However, the various Government financial schemes, together with excellent support from our brewery partners and our fantastic membership will help us through these tough times.”

Whilst the country remains apart, the members of the club have pulled together to maintain the upkeep of their Bolton Road home while following guidelines.

Mike Davies, head groundsman said: “The thing to understand is that the grass doesn’t stop growing, so I have been looking after the ground as if we were going to be playing cricket.

“But obviously, I am not preparing tracks for the weekend fixtures, or junior fixtures midweek.

“My pre-season, as we call it, runs between February and March with a view of starting mid-April, so that work stayed the same, you are just preparing the ground to get back up to scratch from the winter, to be in peak condition as you would.

“It is only now we have got to the ‘season’ where the workload has levelled off. I am simply just keeping on top of the square and the outfield in hope that there will be cricket.

“The ground has got to be ready to start, if we are given the green light further down the line.”

Despite his hard work, Davies is doubtful about how much action there will be in 2020.

“Our ground is looking great; it is just a shame we cannot use it for the purpose intended. Personally, I do not think we will see any cricket this season,” he said.

“I think with social distancing and having the clubhouse, the changing rooms and toilet facilities open, I cannot see how we would be able to do so. That is unless the ECB give specific advice on a particular way it could be done.”

Furthermore, while outfields are fine, pitches are a different matter.

“Most clubs including Edgworth I would suggest need two to three weeks to simply get tracks ready,” Davies said.

“The ground as such, would be ready the day after they give the green light, but the tracks themselves would need work and that means sufficient time.”

Last season we saw a summer of cricket that will go down in history, and another major concern is that the excitement created by England’s victory in the World Cup will be lost.

Davies said: “There are two ways to look at it. It could be that some people might miss the cricket window quite simply because football may start again in August.

“On the other hand, because everybody has been starved of sport, I think as soon as the doors open and we can put on junior coaching, junior nets and hopefully junior matches on, we might pick up some new people.

“We just do not yet know which sports will be allowed to start up first. Golf for example, naturally involves social distancing and you tend not to be close to one another.

“Whereas, cricket is a team game where you are in close proximity with others.”