Bowlers to start training at seven county grounds from Thursday

David Charlesworth, PA
PA Media: Sport

Up to 18 bowlers will take part in individualised training sessions across seven county grounds from Thursday, the England and Wales Cricket Board has announced.

Edgbaston, Emirates Old Trafford, Emirates Riverside, Kia Oval, Trent Bridge, Taunton and Hove are the assigned venues, with each hosting at least one session this week before a full roll out from Monday.

The designated bowlers, whose identities have not yet been confirmed, will have their temperatures checked but no testing is planned in stage one of the return to training.

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Players must collect their own ball if they bowl in an empty net (Steven Paston/PA)
Players must collect their own ball if they bowl in an empty net (Steven Paston/PA)

One of the key principles of the individual sessions is maintaining a minimum of two metres physical and social distancing but as training advances to smaller groups, there will be more stringent testing.

For the rest of this week, a physiotherapist will be at each venue to oversee each session, observing social distancing measures, before ECB and selected county coaches return to individual training from next week.

It was anticipated bowlers would start training on Wednesday – with batsmen and wicketkeepers coming back on June 1, which has been confirmed – but that has been delayed by 24 hours.

Bowlers must bring their own kit, including assigned cricket balls, wash their hands regularly, clean equipment used with disinfectant wipes and arrive at training ready to start practice.

If they bowl in an empty net, they must collect their own ball, which, curiously, is not allowed to be shined with saliva or sweat.

The International Cricket Council last week recommended a temporary ban on the use of saliva to polish the ball when the sport resumes after the coronavirus pandemic.

While sweat was not scratched off the list, the ECB has for now ruled out any bodily fluids being used as a means of attempting to gain movement through the air.

Bowling into a mitt has been deemed a permissible form of individualised training but coaches must bring their own mitt and wear a disposable glove on the other hand.

The rigorous procedures in place underline England’s commitment to safety, with Ashley Giles, director of men’s cricket at the ECB, last week insisting that the sessions should be less risky than a trip to the supermarket.

The measures mark the first step towards hosting international matches this summer although a number of other factors need to be achieved before that becomes a reality.

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