CRICKET returned to New Road with a practice match between two teams of Mistley players.

To a passerby looking over one of the gates, the cricket would have appeared unchanged, with the sound of ball on willow and players in their distinctive whites.

They might have noticed how pristine the ground looked, thanks mostly to the marvellous work of Trevor Mills and Patrick Moore but also due to no cricket until mid-July.

On closer inspection, however, there were breaks every six overs for fielders to sanitise their hands and wipe the ball, bowlers’ caps were placed on the ground behind the stumps, instead of being held by the umpire, and the batsmen were running wider apart on each side of the wicket.

Off the field, players had to manage without changing rooms and bring their own teas.

Fortunately, these sensible and manageable precautions did not detract from the enjoyment of the game for both players and spectators.

A one-minute silence was observed before the start for victims of the coronavirus, nationally and locally.

Scott’s Explorers batted first with an opening partnership of 50, before Rob Collett was caught by Alex Ashworth off the bowling of Harry Fifield.

Fellow opener Matt Bibby went on to score 50 before retiring to allow someone else a bat.

James Scott soon settled in and also progressed to a brisk 50 before retiring.

Myles Churchill made 35 before being caught by wicketkeeper Tom Young off the bowling of Richard Pineo and new member Sam Cantelo made 45 not out.

Extras also contributed a significant number of runs, probably partly due to lack of bowler practice but also the introduction of leg-side wides, as a substantial total of 278 for eight was reached in 40 overs.

The response by Hutton’s Heroes was initially led by Sam Burkitt, scoring 34 before being caught by Matt Bibby off the bowling of spinner Ali Day.

George Hutton made 47 before falling stumped to the same bowler.

Josh Jackson and Richard Pineo made 15 runs each with the run chase reaching a total of 203 for nine at the end of 40 overs, with extras again making a noticeable contribution to the total.

Ali Day finished with impressive figures of six wickets for 30 runs from his eight overs.

The match enabled all the players to get some valuable practice while also becoming familiar with the safety precautions.

Having cricket underway provided a boost to everyone involved with Mistley Cricket Club and supporters from the community.

First XI captain James Scott said: "It’s been a long time coming, but it was great to see everyone enjoying the opportunity to play some cricket again.

"After such a long wait, the next few weeks will offer a chance for players and spectators to get out and enjoy what’s left of summer.

"Now we just have to hope the weather stays kind to us."

With the Two Counties competitions having been abandoned due to the virus, alternative competitions have been arranged.

On Saturdays, Mistley’s first and second teams will play in local groups of four clubs involving Hadleigh, East Bergholt, Copdock and OIs and Ipswich and East Suffolk.

They will play home and away fixtures with playoffs at the end.

Spectators are encouraged to bring their own seats and umbrellas and an outside bar will be open.