In the space of just four days, Lostock Cricket Club’s 1st XI scorer, Michael ‘Mitch ‘Cregan, will make the amazing jump from scoring in a scheduled league game at the club’s Chew Moor ground to being England’s ‘man in the box’ for one of the most eagerly awaited cricket matches of all time - the fourth Ashes Test Match against Australia at Old Trafford, writes David Kaye.

As he has been for over two decades, Mitch will be on duty for Lostock when they take on high-flying Eagley this afternoon in a North West Cricket League Premiership clash, but when he reports at Old Trafford for the first morning of the Test on Wednesday he can be forgiven for thinking he’s landed on another planet - such will be the frenetic atmosphere around him as England strive to level the dramatic Ashes series which has had the nation in its thrall over the first three games.

For a man who has given so much to cricket over many years, both at local and county level, this is indeed a richly deserved reward, and his reaction when the invitation to officiate in the Test came through from Old Trafford says it all.

“I could scarcely take it in at first, as it’s the realisation of a cherished dream,” he said. “As a young lad growing up in Bolton, like all my pals, I wanted to play cricket and football for England, but when it eventually dawned on me that I wasn’t quite good enough to open the batting with Graham Gooch against the Aussies at Lord’s, I determined I would try my very best to make my mark in cricket on the other side of the boundary.

“For me this will be the ultimate experience of my scoring career, and it’s difficult to imagine anything surpassing it, other than, perhaps, being in the scorebox for an Ashes Test at Lord’s.”

But for cricket-crazy Cregan, this is not a case of overnight success.

After a long but relatively modest playing career in the now-defunct Horwich Churches and Welfare Cricket Association, for around four decades Mitch has contributed far more to the local cricket scene than he could ever have taken out, working tirelessly in a diversity of roles, undertaking many responsibilities in club and league administration, and acting as junior coach, reporter, researcher, historian and author.

But it is his outstanding track record as scorer and statistician which has led to recognition at international level, and when he takes his place in the Old Trafford score box next week, this will be his metaphorical ‘6th International scoring cap’, and certainly the most prestigious.

Cregan came to Lostock in 2000, when his three sons, Mark, James and Anthony joined the club’s junior ranks, and before long he had made himself an indispensable cog the club’s machine.

Shortly after becoming first team scorer in 2009, he received a cry for help from a former Lostock colleague, Peter Rutherford, who had joined the coaching staff at Old Trafford.

The regular scorer for Lancashire Women was hospitalised shortly before a game, and a stand-in was urgently needed. Mitch readily agreed, but little could he have known this was start of a wonderful new chapter for him. When the Women’s scorer returned to duty it was with Lancashire 2nd XI men’s team, and Mitch was appointed permanent scorer for Lancashire Women and Lancashire Thunder.

He has now been an impeccable servant of women’s and girls’ cricket in the county for 15 seasons, and last year reached the remarkable milestone of scoring in 200 senior games.

Momentum has built rapidly for Mitch in recent seasons, and after occasional duty for both Lancashire Men’s 1st XI and 2nd XI championship games, difficulties during the Covid era led to international opportunities at Old Trafford, including games involving Sri Lanka, South Africa, Pakistan and India.

While his outstanding service to Lostock was recognised in 2015, when he was one of four inaugural inductees into the club’s Hall of Fame, the seeds of a second tribute to Mitch were planted in early 2021 to acknowledge a remarkable two decades of service, but Covid constraints and other complications delayed completion of the project.

However, by good fortune, these negatives have turned into a wonderful positive, since the second tribute - in the form of a comprehensive biography of Cregan’s cricketing life - now embraces a most exciting unexpected chapter.

Compiled by Lostock president David Kaye, the narrative is entitled “Mitch Under the Microscope” and sub-titled “A Profile of Allan Michael Cregan – Scorer & Statistician Extraordinaire.”

Comprising 24 (A4) pages, and with 40 photographs and illustrations, the publication concludes most fittingly with a wonderfully warm tribute written by Ellie Threlkeld, captain of Lancashire Women and Lancashire Thunder on behalf of all the female players at Old Trafford.