WHAT a great place! That was the message from some of the sport’s biggest names on a memorable NatWest CricketForce day at Heywood Cricket Club.
More than 350 seniors and juniors gave Crimble a vibrant atmosphere as many renovation jobs were carried out, to give the ground a sparkling facelift in preparation for the new Central Lancashire League season.
Along the celebrities supporting the England Wales Cricket Board’s showcase day were former Test captain Mike Gatting, ex-Lancashire player and now renowned Sky TV commentator David ‘Bumble’ Lloyd, current county opening batsman Stephen Moore, Old Trafford chief executive Jim Cumbes and ex-Test umpire John Holder.
And all were glowing in their view of Crimble and the enthusiastic response of the Heywood public.
Gatting, who arrived early in the morning and stayed to join in the post-event celebrations, said: “It’s a lovely, lovely ground and you don’t see too many of this size. I’m not surprised that Lancashire choose it to stage some of their representative games.
“The turnout has been brilliant and the fact is that there has been a huge amount done. It’s good, also, to see the kids enjoying themselves and so many of them actually working!
“There are probably still many people in Heywood who are not aware of what a friendly place this is. It’s a bit of a community, and families can bring their children down here and know that they are safe.”
Moore, who helped Lancashire to their first county title in 77 years in 2011, went down to Crimble virtually straight from Manchester Airport after taking part in a pre-season tour of the Middle East.
He said: “I’m a little jaded but it’s certainly been worth the effort. It’s been satisfying to see the amount of people down here today.
“I’d heard about the ground from some of my Lancashire team-mates, who have spoken highly about it. But I really didn’t expect something as big and as good as this when I was driving through Heywood.
“It must be a fantastic ground to play on or just watch cricket.
“Places like this are few and far between and it’s a tremendous facility not just for boys but also girls. The club has a top ambassador in that respect in Kate Cross, who is off to South Africa with England soon.”
‘Bumble’, who has become a national cricket treasure is his role as a cricket pundit since retiring from the game, busied himself with encouraging as many people as possible with his impish sense of humour before leaving at lunchtime to watch his beloved Accrington Stanley.
But he, too, was impressed by the size of the Heywood playing area, and said: “It’s must be a big, straight hit to get the ball to the boundary, and you’d have to have a good arm as a fielder!”
The success of the day was a major source of satisfaction for first team captain Bobby Cross, driving force behind bringing the initiative to the club.
“I’m proud of what we did and the response we had,” said Cross. “The day was better than I could have hoped for in terms of numbers.
“But this is only the start of taking the club forward. I’m sure that many of the people who came down for the first time will be back again.
“Now we’ve done this once, and showed that it is achievable, I’m sure that we can have another go next year, although obviously on a smaller scale.”
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