Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Cricket: Sport's Grassroots Base Is Thriving; Stuart Rayner

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Cricket: Sport's Grassroots Base Is Thriving; Stuart Rayner

Article excerpt

HUNDREDS of local cricket fans turned out to watch some of the North East's top amateurs take on a team of former internationals, but despite the stellar names on show it was the next generation who were at the forefront of South Northumberland's minds yesterday.

The North East Premier League champions hosted Lashings in a 35-over friendly and, while the players did their best to entertain a sell-out crowd, South North chairman Ian Gilthorpe was just as interested in what the game could do for the next generation.

Helped by the success of Durham and its players at national and international level - and by a new Twenty20 competition at Premier League level - grass roots cricket in the North East is in rude health and Gilthorpe is anxious to see it capitalise.

"There were a lot of youngsters in, which is very pleasing," he said of yesterday's crowd. "It's great that some of the schools have been able to come along and get some coaching.

"It's raised the profile of the club and it's also an important fundraiser so to get 450 corporate guests out is great. We need to raise as much as we can because we want to get out more and use the people we've got to help in the community.

If we can develop kids who go on to play First-Class cricket, that's fine, but if most of our youngsters are still playing in their 20s, we'll see that as a real achievement.

"It's absolutely fine if they go off and play cricket elsewhere. As long as they're playing cricket - or any sport - that's all that's important. There's a real increase in the popularity of grass roots cricket and with the development of Twenty20 there's a lot more to come. It's great for the kids, 20-over cricket, because they've now got a game they can identify with."

Former Pakistan bowler Mohammed Akram was part of the Lashings side yesterday and the player - who now plies his trade with North East Premier League side Sunderland - backed up Gilthorpe's assessment of the state of local cricket. …

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