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'They said 13 weeks. We did it in three'

Sacriston NatWest CricketForce 2009

John Hicks, Regional Manager of NatWest, helps progress the work in the new Sacriston pavillion

They say necessity is the mother of invention, and so it proved at Sacriston CC this weekend during another landmark NatWest CricketForce event.

Barely three weeks ago the club, based in county Durham, were facing the prospect of beginning the season without a pavilion.

Their old facility had been condemned as unsafe, they were waiting on planning permission and building rights for the new pavilion, and the prospect of getting changed into their whites in the car was becoming ever more realistic for the players.

Sacriston NatWest CricketForce 2009

Sea Cadets help plant trees on the site

Fast forward to today and there stands a fully-erected new pavilion at this most friendly of clubs, one of five selected by the ECB to showcase NatWest CricketForce this year.

Admittedly, it may be stretching the point to suggest Sacriston have invented the concept of a pavilion, but the speed of their achievement is remarkable nonetheless.

“I contacted some builders, and they said it would take 13 weeks,” chairman Robin Hill, who has played a key role in Sacriston’s logic-defying feat, told ecb.co.uk.

“We’ve done it in three so far. As soon as we got permission to go ahead with the building, the spades came out and we started digging.

“The concrete base went down on Thursday, the walls went up on Friday and the roof went on on Saturday.

“It will be a couple of weeks before we get everything finished inside, but we’ve done a great job so far.”

Sacriston CC

There has been no shortage of help from players, their friends and family, and the local community as a whole in recent weeks – and Hill admits he found the response to their plea for help staggering.

“Some people say that community spirit is dead, but what we’ve done over the last couple of weeks proves that it isn’t,” he added.

“We had 140 people down here on Saturday and another 120 today, and to be honest we’ve been struggling to find work for them, we’ve had that many.”

Hill, who is in the building trade himself, helped draw up plans, source materials and even loan his staff to Sacriston free of charge this weekend.

His efforts, and those of the committee – led by the tireless Tony Claughan – serve as further evidence of the astonishing effect NatWest CricketForce has had on clubs up and down the country since it shot to prominence in 2005.

Sacriston NatWest CricketForce 2009

Gerry Sutcliffe, Minister of Sport, hands Robin Hill, chairman of Sacriston, the club's NatWest CricketForce 2009 plaque

As has become the norm, we are reporting a record number of clubs taking part this year, and an ever-increasing tally of volunteers prepared do their bit.

Claughan combined his job as a civil servant with heading the pavilion-building project – "it has been like another full-time job" – and the adjectives trip off his tongue as he recalls how far the club has come.

“It has been a cracking weekend – absolutely fantastic,” he said. “The old pavilion has been out of date for the last 30 years, so this has been a long time coming.

“What we have done here is unbelievable. Everybody has just mucked in and that has been really special. We're all buzzing about it and can’t wait to use the new pavilion.”

Claughan has been involved at Sacriston for a quarter of a century – he joined when he was 10 – and he is adamant that this is one of the greatest days in their history.

Indeed, he summed up the spirit of NatWest CricketForce – and club cricket in general – when he said: “It has always been the best club in the world in my eyes, but now it’s even better.”

Sacriston NatWest CricketForce 2009

A panorama of the work and the workforce at Sacriston - and a great job done by all!