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NatWest CricketForce kicks off

Monty Panesar and Graeme Swann headed an all-star cast as NatWest CricketForce 2009 was launched in style at Ashtead Cricket Club on Friday.

The England stars were joined by Women's World Cup winners Charlotte Edwards, Holly Colvin, Lydia Greenway and Ebony Rainford-Brent - complete with trophy - as well as the whole of the Surrey squad who helped kick-off this year's grassroots initiative.

Panesar and Edwards ditched bats for brushes to give the club's scorebox a lick of paint while Swann grabbed a shovel to help Mike Gatting dig a trench from the impressive new pavilion - part paid by an ECB grant and loan - to the nets.

The Surrey team did their share too with Mark Ramprakash and Mark Butcher joining the hundreds of volunteers by giving the picturesque Woodfield Lane ground a dramatic facelift.

NatWest CricketForce 2009, Ashtead CC - Charlotte Edwards

The women's World Cup sits proudly on display as Charlotte Edwards signs autographs at Ashtead CC

Ashtead is one of five ECB showcase clubs - Calne, Highway, Ipswich and Sacriston are the others - and chairman Richard Laudy was thrilled with the response from enthusiastic members and locals who arrived at the ground ready for some hard graft.

"Everyone is having a wonderful time but I promise you there is a lot of hard work going on," he told ecb.co.uk.

"It just shows what we can achieve if we all work together. We are no different from any other club in the country. Every club I have come across has a number of enthusiastic people - what you need to do is galvanise that enthusiasm and bring it together.

"This is what this club deserves. Our club was founded in 1887 and we struggled with our old pavilion. That was a massive source of frustration.

"Now we have a wonderful pavilion which will be ready for the start of the 2009 season."

NatWest CricketForce is an England and Wales Cricket Board volunteering initiative aimed at rejuvenating the nation’s cricketing facilities. With enough volunteers involved to fill the Millennium Stadium, it is the largest volunteer programme in British sport.