When the government gave the green light to allow outdoor team sports to begin, it was just the boost Island club cricket needed — knowing the sport should be able to start next month, assuming the ECB’s guidance is circulated in time.
The word is it will be due next Monday, 22 March 2021, writes Jon Moreno, sports editor of the Isle of Wight County Press.
April will likely see the first friendlies played, with a ten-team Island League starting on either Saturday, May 8 or 15, according to the IW Cricket Board (IWCB), which has yet to ratify its plans.
This will not include Ventnor, Shanklin and Ryde, who will play in their respective regional leagues. They played in a one-off Island League with two divisions, which proved popular.
Ventnor play their first match at home to Fair Oak in Division 2 of the Southern Premier League, on May 1.
In the Hampshire League, Shanklin and Ryde I (Division 2) and Ryde II (Division 4 South), play their openers on May 8, with Oakley visiting Westhill and Redlynch & Hale buying an expensive ticket to Ryde.
Although some discussions are still required, the IWCB plan to run two Island League divisions — the second being smaller and run on a 30-over format once the overlapping Island football season ends in June.
One other plus is the retention of the September Cup, played on Sundays, which prolonged the season and also proved to be a hit last year, with Ryde and Ventnor tieing a dramatic final.
There will also be youth cricket leagues at U11, U13 and U15 levels, from mid-May and the return of kids’ cricket initiatives the All Stars and Dynamos.
The IWCB’s cricket development manager, Stuart Chatfield, said: “Off the back of last season’s successes, clubs are keen to get back playing again. Everyone is looking forward to a good season.”
The ten Island League teams are Northwood I and II, Newport I and II, Cowes, Freshwater, St Helens, Shanklin II, Ryde III and Bembridge and Ryde Cavaliers, after Ryde Cavaliers signalled their intent to ditch Hampshire League status.
The first big fixture for an Island club will be when Ventnor visit the cradle of English cricket, for the Venous national Village Cup, on Sunday, April 24. They have been drawn away to one-time Lord’s finalists, Hambledon, in the opening round of the competition.
SPL3 side Hambledon play their home matches at Ridge Meadow, less than two miles from the historic Broadhalfpenny Down, where it is claimed cricket was first played in the 18th century.