IT WAS a sight the vast majority of the Isle of Wight's cricket followers thought may never happen this summer — the return of the club game over the weekend.

Following last week's shock announcement club cricket would return almost immediately — this after Prime Minister Boris Johnson made a dramatic U-turn over whether it was safe to resume the sport — most Island clubs were caught on the hop somewhat.

Isle of Wight County Press: Spectators at Westhill enjoying the match between Shanklin and Newport's first teams on Saturday.Spectators at Westhill enjoying the match between Shanklin and Newport's first teams on Saturday.

But after some quick work behind the scenes, some fixtures between clubs (and some inter-club) were hastily arranged in time for Saturday.

It saw Shanklin's first team entertain Newport at Westhill, while their seconds played a match at St Helens on the village green.

They also hosted Island Bakeries at Westhill yesterday (Sunday).

Spectators were treated to a hatful of runs on both days.

Isle of Wight County Press: Jordan Langdon in bat during the Northwood Cricket Club inter-club challenge match in Cowes on Saturday.Jordan Langdon in bat during the Northwood Cricket Club inter-club challenge match in Cowes on Saturday.

Northwood Cricket Club held an inter-club challenge match — Team Baker v Team Proud — which proved successful, while Arreton Cricket Club hosted a match between Binstead and touring side, the Arundel Grasshoppers, with both played on Sunday.

Apart from the heartwarming sight of the archetypal British summer sport returning, cricket clubs said they had coped well with the stringent government-led ECB guidelines on allowing cricket to be played during the Covid-19 outbreak. 

Isle of Wight County Press: Play between Binstead and Arundel Grasshoppers at Arreton. Play between Binstead and Arundel Grasshoppers at Arreton.

At clubhouses generally, with a few minor variations, there were no catering facilities, but the bar was open where available, with suitable signage in place to help players and spectators enjoy the amenities and to stay safe by respecting social distancing.

All players, spectators and officlals had to sign in to ensure the NHS can track and trace, to contact people should someone present on the day be confirmed as Covid-19 positive.

Jack Powell, of Shanklin Cricket Club, played on both weekend days for his club.

He said: "Cricket made its long, awaited return.

"We’ve waiting many months get back to playing cricket, so it was very nice to get out on the pitch on Saturday and enjoy playing the game.

"Even the weather came good for us. The whole weekend was stunning and made it even more enjoyable with the hot weather. 

"I didn't think it was that different to a typical game be honest. 

"The only difference when playing was having to hand sanitise your hands and the ball after every six overs.

"This felt strange the first couple of times we did it. However, by the third or fourth time we had to do it, we'd become used to the idea. 

"A couple more changes were the lack of tea in between innings!

"With ECB guidelines telling us tea could not be made, it meant we never got to sit down at around 4pm and enjoy a nice sandwich and donut, which is a very enjoyable part of the afternoon really.

"Another thing out of the normal was not being able use the changing rooms — and having to socially distance ourselves outside.

"We did all try to make the best of that situation! Hopefully, it will not last much longer as outside swimming pools opened on Saturday and, with gyms set to open on July 25, it may not be long before we're back in our beautifully refurbished changing room! 

"I thought the game went along perfectly and I don’t think there was one player on either day who wasn’t pleased to be back out playing cricket.

"It was as close to a normal weekend many of us have felt for a very long time!"

Charlie Millington, of St Helens Cricket Club, said Saturday's match against Shanklin seconds was a positive step towards cricket normality.

"It went well, despite having to put all the safety precautions in place and form filling for players, for track and trace purposes.

"A hell of a lot of people came out to watch around the green. It was a good game enjoyed by many."

All good news for Island cricket as it stands by to introduce a new Island league and possible cup in the coming weeks. 

Tina Cooper, chairman of Arreton Cricket Club, said: "Great to see cricket being played again after hours of work to keep the ground up together for the start of play." 

  • For a full report on the historic first weekend of cricket on the Island this summer, check out this Friday's County Press.