Ruling keeps the ball in play

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The Independent Online
BRITAIN'S village cricketers may have heaved sighs of relief at a judge's ruling last week that the occasional ball in a neighbour's garden is not enough to stop play. But for those on whose heads, cars or property the balls may land, the news could have painful consequences, writes Nic Cicutti.

The decision by Judge Nigel Hague means that cricketers in Jordans, a village in Buckinghamshire, do not have to erect two 25-feet-high nets to protect the garden of David Lacey, whose house overlooks the green.

While Jordans' cricketers have not been forced into pulling up their stumps for good, seeking to prevent injury or damage and compensating those who have suffered from errant balls should still be a high priority for any team.

Accidents can happen, as Chris Johnson, chairman of Knebworth Park Cricket Club, Hertfordshire, knows only too well.

'We were playing in a benefit match and were bowling against Joel Garner, who used to open the bowling for the West Indies and played for Somerset,' Mr Johnson recalled.

'He hit the ball and we really got it in the ear because it went through a side window of a car in the car park just outside the ground.

'There were some words said, and we did exchange names and addresses with the car owner. But thankfully we heard nothing more about it afterwards.'

Mr Johnson's amateur team, whose home pitch is in the grounds of Lord Cobbold's country house, does not have to worry about knocking balls into his Lordship's stately greenhouse. But the team has met its share of stroppy homeowners who have failed to appreciate the delights of amateur cricket, especially when a ball lands in their garden.

'There are some awkward neighbours. At one ground we played, there was a family that refused to return the ball if it landed on their property.

'Another ground in Kent is overlooked by some very rich neighbours and one of them used to hoard all the balls.'

The Knebworth team does have public liability cover, however, so that if a member of the public were to be hurt by an injudiciously struck shot, compensation could be paid for any injuries suffered.

One company offering up to pounds 500,000 liability cover for cricket teams is IGI Insurance, based in Nottingham. Michelle Bennett, an underwriter at the firm said: 'We cover the entire cricket team - up to 20 players - and price the cover in units of pounds 30. Each pounds 30 buys pounds 1,000 compensation for death, or other injuries to the players.

'Benefits are also payable for up to 104 weeks for those who are unable to return to work because of an injury.

'The liability cover is on top. This means that if someone is struck by a ball and it breaks his glasses, we would pay both for the injury to his face and for the replacement spectacles. Cover would also apply to someone's car or garden if it overlooked a pitch.'

Nor should anyone dismiss the likelihood of a fatality occurring. In golf, three claims for fractured skulls and one for a death have been received by Golfguard, a specialist insurer based in Bromley, Kent.

For pounds 24 a year, Golfguard offers individuals both liability cover and protection against theft of clubs.

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