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ECB remain hopeful that recreational cricket can resume in July despite comments from PM Boris Johnson that the ball could be a natural vector of disease

The England and Wales Cricket Board are hoping to persuade the government that recreational cricket is safe to return.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in the Commons on Tuesday that the cricket ball was potentially a “natural vector of disease” and as such the suspension on the game being played at a recreational level would not be lifted at the moment.

Sheppey up against Lordswood 3rd XI last summer Picture: Sean Aidan
Sheppey up against Lordswood 3rd XI last summer Picture: Sean Aidan

His comments, in response to a question from Greg Clark, conservative MP for Tunbridge Wells, came on the same day that the government announced that restaurants, pubs and hairdressers will reopen on July 4.

Mr Clark said: “Can he specify whether the ban on cricket has come to an end? Cricket is perhaps our most socially distanced team sport. We have lost half the summer, but there is another half left to be enjoyed by players and spectators alike.”

The Kent Cricket League had been hoping to run half a season of cricket, without relegation or promotion, but are now looking at organising local/regional competitions instead after a number of teams opted out.

Mr Johnson said in Parliament, in response to Mr Clark's question: “The problem with cricket, as everybody understands, is that the ball is a natural vector of disease, potentially at any rate.

“We have been round it many times with our scientific friends. At the moment, we are still working on ways to make cricket more covid-secure, but we cannot change the guidance yet.”

It prompted a statement from the ECB, who believe the game is as safe as any others, and are looking for play to resume in July.

They said: “The ECB along with the nation’s cricket players are keen to see the imminent and safe return of our sport at recreational level and have been working hard with the government to achieve this.

“We believe that cricket is a non-contact sport, with very low risks of exposure, and that it can be played as safely as many other activities being currently permitted.”

Basketball was one of the first sports which the government allowed to resume when lockdown restrictions were first eased.

There is still no date for a return of recreational cricket Picture: Sean Aidan
There is still no date for a return of recreational cricket Picture: Sean Aidan

The statement continued: “It is our strong desire to work with government to see the resumption of recreational cricket on or around 4th July, as they continue to lift other restrictions more broadly across society.

“We are heartened that the government has already permitted the resumption of other ball sports, including tennis and basketball, and we are sure that our interpretation of the risks around ball transmission is consistent with these other games.

“We can confirm that any guidance we share with the game will include directions on how to mitigate any risk from handling the ball as we continue to prioritise the health and safety of the cricket family in all our decision-making.”

Kent Cricket had earlier responded to Mr Johnson’s comments, saying: “Kent Cricket are aware of the prime minister’s announcement which says the restrictions preventing the return of recreational cricket cannot be lifted yet.

“We will work closely with ECB and government to understand the reasons behind the latest decision and continue to work tirelessly to ensure that cricket can return safely in our communities as soon as possible.”

The ECB have already announced that county cricket is postponed until August 1, at the earliest.

A 30-man England training group meanwhile - which includes Zak Crawley and Joe Denly - is preparing for the first test against West Indies on Wednesday, July 8.

The Kent Cricket League have told clubs there will be no penalty for withdrawing from the 2020 season. Teams have already opted out and the league say they expect others to follow.

Ashford Town (1st and 2nd XI), Tenterden (1st XI & 2nd XI), Rainham (1st & 2nd XI) Bapchild (1st & 2nd XI) and Harvel 2nd XI have all opted out of any Kent League involvement for 2020.

The league have said: “The only likely solution for competitive cricket to return is to organise local / regional competitions at the back end of the season. We are currently reviewing plans for a League season between four and six weeks, starting in August or sooner if the situation arises.”

Five teams from the Kent Regional League have also opted out, they are: Boca Sports 1st XI, Rainham 3rd XI, Tenterden 3rd XI, Bapchild 3rd XI and Lordswood 4th XI.

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