The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) on Friday announced that recreational cricket would be allowed to return from next weekend after the UK Government gave its approval.
“We are delighted that the UK Government have given their permission for recreational cricket to return from next weekend,” ECB tweeted.
The board will publish the approved guidelines to help clubs and players prepare for cricket’s return.
In a radio interview earlier on Friday, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson angered thousands of club cricketers by saying the amateur game was still not safe to play amid the coronavirus pandemic because of issues surrounding communal teas and dressing rooms.
But even though tea — which can also feature a variety of sandwiches and cakes — is part of the fabric of cricket at all levels, many players might have been willing to forgo the meal break in return for playing their beloved sport once again.
But Johnson, at a Downing Street briefing on Friday that took place several hours after his radio interview, used cricket terminology to signal that the club and youth game was on its way back.
Johnson explained the change in his position by saying he’d called in “the third umpire”, who in professional cricket can overturn decisions made by either of the two on-field match officials.
“Having been stumped on the radio this morning on that point on science again to be asked about earlier, which was the exact vector of the disease, I sought scientific advice and medical opinions,” said Johnson.
“The ‘third umpire’ has been invoked, and what I can say is that we do want to work as fast as possible to get cricket back, and we will be publishing guidelines in the next few days so that cricket can resume in time for next weekend,” he added.
ECB Chief Executive Tom Harrison set out how important the recreational game is for communities across the country, and the vital role sports play in keeping people healthy.
“The ECB has today had positive discussions with @OliverDowden about the return of recreational cricket, with groups of more than six able to gather. We remain optimistic that we will have positive news to share in the not too distant future,” ECB wrote on Twitter.
(With inputs from AFP)