VALLEY End’s girls are firmly entrenched in cricket again after fearing they wouldn’t be able to play at all during 2020.

The pandemic hit the sport hard, and clubs were not allowed to begin match action until last month.

But the Valley End youngsters have made up for lost time, including playing the first hard-ball game in their history ­– against Pyrford.

Valley End spokesman Caroline Hales told the News & Mail: “We started the year with a lot of enthusiasm, having participated in a winter indoor league, and then began our winter nets training.

“The girls entered four leagues, including – for the first time – an under-12 hardball league. So the abrupt ending of the winter nets, the delayed start to the cricket season and cancellation of all competitive leagues was hugely disappointing. 

“At one point, we didn’t think any cricket would be played in 2020 at all. We worried that the buzz around girls’ cricket would disappear.  

“However, in June – when the ECB allowed training to restart – 20 girls showed up to our first socially distanced training session, led by Wez Mansfield.

“Training was in groups of five players, plus a coach, with adherence to social distancing.

“There were additional rules such as players bringing their own equipment, balls and refreshments, with no sharing allowed. An attendance record was taken of girls and helpers, and hand sanitiser was used at regular intervals.

“Parents were encouraged not to stay, and a one-way system in the car park was implemented.

“Despite the rules and the initial strangeness, the excitement at the first training session was unbelievable. Cricket offered the girls a sense that normality was beginning to return.”

For more on this story, plus picture spread, get the 20 August edition of the News & Mail