England stars get stuck in
England cricketers joined thousands of volunteers at the weekend as they went to work at cricket clubs across the country taking part in NatWest CricketForce 2005.
Over 650 clubs participated in the fourth year of the event and six received visits from England internationals, with two helicopters being used to help the players get around the country.
Matthew Hoggard and James Anderson were the busiest players, visiting three clubs on Sunday, while Vikram Solanki also took to the skies on Saturday as he dropped in at Ross-on-Wye and Shifnal.
Hoggard and Anderson had an early start and began their day when they arrived at Wirksworth at 9am. They spent an hour at the Derbyshire club before heading north to Hoggard’s home county of Yorkshire.
They visited Saltaire in Bradford, close to his home in Baildon, and Hoggard in particular received a warm welcome as he returned to his roots.
Speaking to ecb.co.uk, he said: “It’s brilliant to be here, especially with it being one of my local clubs.
“I played here a few times in junior cricket up to about Under 15 level and had a bit of success over the years, so it’s great to see so many people involved in this project and coming down to help.
"I’ve never seen the ground looking in such good condition, they’ve obviously put a lot of effort in and it looks like it’s been worth it.
“It’s great to be able to get involved in something like this and I’ve really enjoyed it. We all started playing at clubs similar to this and know how much hard work goes in.”
The work at Saltaire involved refurbishing a semi-derelict Victorian building for use by both the club and local community groups and the players saw for themselves the progress made.
The international team-mates also donned overalls and climbed ladders to help finish painting the scorebox before taking time out to pose for photographs and sign autographs.
The visit ended with budding young cricketers getting the chance to play cricket against their heroes and receive coaching advice from the experts.
It proved a hectic but rewarding weekend for those involved and Saltaire CC Community Officer Ed Duguid said: “It’s been fantastic.
“We had about 70 or 80 volunteers painting on Saturday, and then this has all been about the visit from the ECB and the England players. I think it’s been a great visit and I’m sure all the kids will be inspired by it.”
The NatWest CricketForce weekend was launched on Friday at Bexley, where Andrew Strauss and Geraint Jones showed their support, and Harborne in Warwickshire also received a visit from Ashley Giles and ECB chief executive David Collier.