Club cricketers to observe 1-metre rule as UK government confirms green light

An anti-bacterial hand gel pot next to a cricket ball during a net session at Blagdon Hill Cricket Club Harry Trump/Getty Images

Amateur cricketers in England will be obliged to maintain social distance, even when attempting a quick single or standing up to the stumps, after the UK government gave its go-ahead for recreational team sports to return this weekend.

The new gameplay requirements, in accordance with Step 4 of the ECB's roadmap for the return of recreational cricket, were circulated to clubs and leagues on Wednesday ahead of the scheduled return of the recreational game on Saturday, July 11. The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sports (DCMS) subsequently confirmed the guidance following Thursday's daily briefing.

"This is fantastic news for the millions of people who miss playing sport with their friends and teammates," said Nigel Huddlestone, the sports minister.

"This guidance sets out how community sport can be done safely, so many more sports can get going again.

"Sports Governing Bodies are now putting stringent measures in place so that the millions of people that play, officiate and volunteer can keep safe while enjoying all the benefits that grassroots sport brings."

The ECB's eight-point guidelines permit all recreational matches to be 11-a-side affairs, but stipulate a maximum of 30 attendees at any event, including coaches and officials, and a requirement for "matches to be adjusted to remain socially distanced".

There are additional requirements for close fielders, in particular wicketkeepers and slips, to maintain a 1m distance from fellow players, a situation that may prevent keepers from standing up to the stumps for spin bowling.

And when running between the wickets, "batters are to run in distinct running lines to ensure they are not within 2m of others" - an edict that may struggle to survive the haphazard calling of many amateur cricketers.

In keeping with the new regulations governing the return of Test cricket, no saliva may be applied to the ball at any time, but unlike the situation for professional cricket, the use of sweat for ball-shining has also been prohibited.

Players are encouraged to use their own equipment throughout where possible and to clean their bat when leaving the field of play. Hands and the ball should be cleaned at all breaks.

The use of clubhouse facilities, changing rooms and toilets should adhere to the latest UK Government advice, and match managers will be required to keep a record of all those in attendance at each session, including contact details.

The updates come after a frustrating delay for recreational cricketers in England and Wales, who had hoped to be back playing by the start of July until Boris Johnson, the UK prime minister, declared in the House of Commons that a cricket ball is a "natural vector of disease".

Johnson subsequently backtracked from that statement, as well as further comments about the safety of "teas" and "changing rooms". Following discussions between the ECB hierarchy and Oliver Dowden, the culture secretary, a start date of July 11 was agreed at the daily Downing Street briefing last week.

The ECB's roadmap further states that Step 5 of their guidelines - unrestricted play for all formats, leagues and competitions, and full usage of facilities - will be revealed at a later date, but will require the government's removal of social distance measures.