AFTER several months’ delay to the start of their 2020 season and a nervous wait to see if any play would be permitted at all, cricket is back on the sporting agenda at Willoughby ahead of the start of their revised league season this Saturday.
The release of new guidelines for recreational cricket by the ECB made it a busy week of final preparations at The Green to make the club deep-cleaned, safe and with new distancing procedures and one-way systems in place around the pavilion.
The use of changing rooms and the traditional mid-match sit-down for tea may be off the menu for now to be replaced by regular sanitation breaks to players’ hands and cricket balls, but that is small inconvenience for the opportunity to take to the field.
After a successful return to action at the weekend with an internal game and club friendly, Willoughby are set to head into an abridged Northamptonshire County League (NCL) season this Saturday with two fixtures.
Promotion and relegation are put to one side until next season due to the shortened campaign, so for the next eight to ten weeks the club’s two Saturday sides will still compete in 40-over matches against teams in their own divisions but in a ‘World Cup’ style format, leading to a last eight knockout stage to decide the mini-tournament winners.
Some will have to set their alarms as all games over the coming two months or so are scheduled to have 11am starts in order to fit in with the regular mandatory sanitation breaks.
Willoughby 1sts get their mini-campaign under way at The Green with the visit of Bowden 2nds, whilst the club’s 2nd XI do not have far to go to start theirs with the short trip over the county border to neighbouring Braunston Paddox 2nds.
In last weekend’s club friendly, Willoughby (208-6) defeated Network Rail (200-8) by eight runs.
Half-centuries from Ben Hollis and Ashley Rayner were the platform for Willoughby’s first victory of the season as they ran out narrow winners over RDCL outfit Network Rail.
Bating first, the respective Saturday 1st and Wednesday XI skippers retired on 50 not out in mid-order as the hosts set the visitors a total of 208-6 off their 40 overs. David Taylor took 2-21 as the pick of the Network Rail bowling.
In reply, the Railmen opened tentatively in the face of useful opening spells from the hosts before Gavin Campbell and Tom Dell made 20 and Daniel Roumayah 24.
Their departures looked to have Willoughby on course to close out the game, however a late burst of 40 from Mallinson together with 26 not out from guesting Fergus Deery threatened to turn the game the visitors’ way.
However, with 22 needed off the last over, the target proved just out of reach even if the visitors did have the satisfaction of finishing the game with a maximum over the trees.