Lowerhouse CC captain Ben Heap feared that there would be no way back for league cricket!

Another season without competitive cricket may have caused irreparable damage for clubs across the country, says Lowerhouse captain Ben Heap.
Ben Heap clocks up the runs for the West EndersBen Heap clocks up the runs for the West Enders
Ben Heap clocks up the runs for the West Enders

Lancashire League sides were able to play a handful of games in the President’s Cup last season after the coronavirus pandemic had caused unprecedented disruption to the official schedule.

The option to format other competitions – such as the round-robin formatted NHS Trophy – was also left to the discretion of league members as a means of extending the campaign.

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Heap was fully appreciative of last season’s efforts, but believed that further interference would have been of detriment to the sport.

Lowerhouse skipper Ben Heap in actionLowerhouse skipper Ben Heap in action
Lowerhouse skipper Ben Heap in action

The ex-Padiham CC paid man, who made his debut for the West Enders in September 2003, had even questioned his own commitment to the cause, had the worst case scenario played out.

“This will be a massive boost because another season of relatively uncompetitive cricket would have meant that certain parts of the game would have been beyond recovery,” claimed the Liverpool Road skipper.

“I completely understood and appreciated the thought process behind it last year, but I don’t think many would have been in a position to do it again, myself included.

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“It would have been massively detrimental and I think the game would’ve suffered across all amateur leagues. We play for fun but it’s still a massive commitment.”

Last week’s Government briefing, fronted by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, confirmed that outdoor sports could resume in England from March 29th in tow with a four-part plan to lift restrictions

That would give clubs around three weeks to prepare for the new term, which is music to Heap’s ears.

The 32-year-old had feared that anything short of a full programme would, understandably, lead to players prioritising other facets of life, while memberships may have also taken a nosedive

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He said: “There have been some dark days for everybody over the winter so this has given us a bit of hope. The return of competitive cricket is key for the sport’s survival and I’m over the moon.

People have been out of work and have mortgages still to pay, they have families and other commitments. I think players would have left if the season had been shortened again.

“It’s vitally important that boards and leagues across the country get as much cricket on as possible while making it as safe and as competitive as possible.

“Another year without competitive cricket would’ve seen memberships across the league take a hit and then you start losing people through the gate.”

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Lowerhouse used their shortened season wisely, blooding the youngsters at The Brooks Foundation Ground.

George Durkin, Henry Cotton and Tom Yorke-Robinson, all under the age of 16, were handed their first team debuts as ‘House finished second in Group 4.

Heap, who has recruited former England ODI and T20 international, Stephen Parry, as professional on a two-year deal, said: “We approached last season differently.

“We had the mentality of helping blood the youngsters into the first team while giving others an opportunity, which they might not have been given otherwise.

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“We gave them as much exposure as we could. They are all under the age of 16 and made their first team debuts.

“They handled themselves very well and that will stand them in good stead for the future. They’ll all benefit from that experience.”

With Lowerhouse starting the season at home to Norden, he added: “Everybody is itching to get out and make the most of it this summer.

“People want to see competitive Lancashire League cricket so hopefully clubs are set for a fantastic summer.”

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“I’ve not really kept a close eye on what other clubs have done. That will soon come to light, but as far as we’re concerned I think we’re in a good position.

“We signed Stephen Perry in the new year and he brings a wealth of confidence and experience.

“We’ve kept the same core of amateurs that we finished the 2019 campaign with so we’re confident that we’ll be challenging on all fronts.”

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