On the Front Foot: What's the biggest threat to village cricket? Too many sixes

The power of modern bats and the subsequent increase in the number of sixes being hit is having a dramatic effect on club cricket.

Throughout the country clubs are facing litigation, threats of closure or prohibitively expensive bills for protective netting because of flying cricket balls. Last week the Club Cricket Conference issued an urgent plea for help. "The problem of flying sixes and the threat to nearby residents, with varying degrees of danger, has been a sore point over the years for a number of clubs," said the CCC. "A small number of cases have had to be settled in court, and the prevailing fear of litigation in the name of health and safety has perhaps exacerbated the problem."

The latest village club under threat is Dymchurch in Kent, where the parish council have suggested the square is moved after complaints from householders. But according to the CCC there are problems in villages everywhere. For years, the defence has been that the cricket field was there long before the houses, but the increase in power hitting is diminishing the influence of that argument. Nor is it always the case.

OTFF can recall retrieving a ball from a garden on the perimeter of a cricket field a year or so back. Out came an irate householder as her roses were being trodden underfoot to say she was fed up of flying cricket balls and was prepared to take action. "But that cricket field will have been there long before your Johnny-come-lately houses." Came the reply: "The houses were built in the 1920s, the cricket field came in the 1980s and now get out of my garden before I call the police."

Durham's art of staying up

Durham, which some people appear to think is on the planet Zog, are on a charm offensive before their first Ashes Test next year. By way of reiterating the county's unquestionable delights, the county cricket club issued a copious information sheet at yesterday's one-day international between England and Australia.

Among other facts, they reminded us that the 17th century Zurbaran paintings in Auckland Castle, seat of the Bishops of Durham, were captured by pirates en route to Mexico and sold to the then Bishop for £126. What they did not tell us was how Paul Collingwood, the county's new four-day captain, proposes to get them off the foot of the County Championship table, so they are not a Division Two club when the Ashes come to town.

Meaker a growing menace

It is now official. The fastest bowler in England and perhaps the world is Stuart Meaker. He has been timed regularly at speeds above 95mph at the National Performance Centre in Loughborough, four or five miles an hour quicker than his nearest rivals.

Meaker is short for a modern fast bowler at 5ft 10in. Although he is listed at 6ft 1in, England's lead bowling coach, Kevin Shine, confirmed at the NPC on Thursday that this was an extravagance.

T20 'should last all season'

There is set to be an impassioned debate about the future of domestic Twenty20 in England, the group stages of which finish today.

This season's model, like other competitions round the world, slotted into a brief timespan. But Surrey are leading a campaign for a season-long competition, with matches at least a week apart. This would prevent the nonsense of their having three home games in four days, as was scheduled this year. But it would spell the end of attracting marquee stars.

s.brenkley@independent.co.uk

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