And: play. Four months on from what looked like the mothballing of an entire English summer, the English and Wales Cricket Board has given the go-ahead for club and amateur cricket to start. Under the ECB’s guidance, which will be published on Thursday, 11-a-side cricket can be played from Saturday within carefully drafted guidelines.
The news will be received with huge enthusiasm by amateur players around the country. More importantly there is now a two-month window for cricket clubs to claw back some of the losses of the first half of the summer, a financial hit that, despite the grants on offer, left some fearing for their futures.
A maximum of 30 people, to include players, coaches and officials, is allowed. Players must maintain 2 metres social distancing while fielding and celebrating wickets. The exceptions are wicketkeepers standing up to the stumps and slip fielders, who can maintain 1 metre plus – good news for spinners and better news still for unwilling short-leg fielders.
Batsmen must run down a clearly marked path at the wicket and “sanitise their bats” once dismissed. A hygiene break will take place every six overs during which the ball will be “cleaned with an anti-bacterial wipe”.
Nothing is to be handed to the umpires, who must also not touch the ball (the same goes for throwing it around the field between deliveries). In the event of rain, spectators must return to their own vehicle or hide under their own tree. Tea will not be served.
While some of the detail may seem amusingly quaint the ECB deserves great credit for getting its guidelines through at a time of general confusion.
The level of difficulty has been raised by the amount of anxiety on all sides and by some confusing comments from central government. Two weeks ago Boris Johnson could be heard musing publicly on the cricket ball as a “vector of disease”, apparently still baffled by the process of minimising risk in an outdoor non-contact sport.
There are some important addendums to the guidance. The burden is on club representatives to make all present aware of the processes, not least “the increase in transmission risk associated with partaking in even socially-distanced group activity”.
The ECB’s wording makes it clear players and officials are “opting to participate in cricket activity”. In other words, risk is being accepted by those who take part, a crucial step in enabling this controlled form of the sport to take place.