COMPETITIVE recreational cricket returned on Saturday after a long enforced lay off due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

The season started with clubs recognising the enormous efforts and sacrifices made by our NHS staff and key workers with a minutes applause followed by taking the knee to show support for Black Lives Matter.

Due to the loss of more than half of the season, the structure of the County League has changed to a number of regional group-based competitions rather than its normal divisional make up.

150 of its original 162 teams reacted positively to the opportunity to return to competitive cricket following the Government's relaxing of the Covid-19 guidelines.

The Cup competition will be the number one prize this season, with the 24 teams who originally made up the Premier Division and Division One Division divided in to four regional groups of six.

In Group A, Old Hill, Oldswinford and Stourbridge Social and Lye all started the season with wins in the new 40 overs a side win/lose format.

In Group B, Chris Ridings compiled a fine 91 in the first innings to help Pershore pass the three hundred mark in their win at Feckenham, whilst Chaddesley Corbett and Astwood Bank also started the season with comfortable wins.

Brockhampton all-rounder Nick Powell took 4-15 in the first innings to dismiss visitors Colwall at the Parks which ultimately helped seal a tight two wicket win, whilst Old Elizabethans and Worcester Nomads also started with wins in Cup Group C.

Droitwich Spa made the trip to Cookley and came away with a 20 run win and Stourport-on-Severn were the other team that started positively in the group as they chased down Ombersley 2nd XIs first innings total for the loss of six wickets.

The Trophy Competition is structured the same way as the Cup with four regional groups of six teams made up of the original teams who would have contested Division Two and Division Three.

In Group A, Richard Pretty scored an excellent first innings century (103) and Sean Jenkins followed with 4-22 to help Himbleton seal victory against Barnt Green 2nd XI in Trophy Group B.

Greg Chinn (100) also started with a century for Bromsgrove 2nd XI but a fine undefeated (99*) in the second innings from Adam Warbrick stole the show for Astwood Bank 2nd XI.

In Trophy Group C there were wins for Bredon who beat Kempsey and Barnards Green 2nd XI who defeated Brockhampton 2nd XI by forty one runs despite a fine second innings (83) from Max Foster. The other match in the group saw local rivals Bartestree & Lugwardine and Eastnor share the spoils as both were dismissed for 110 in a low scoring tied match dominated by the bowlers..

Andrew Kimberlin (140) and Phil Pountney (4-5) ensured Kidderminster started with a bang against Rushwick at Chester Road in Trophy Group D. Old Vigornians won the battle of Worcester against Old Elizabethans 2nd XI by a comfortable margin thanks to a second innings half century from Henry Armstrong (69) and Daniel Johnson cracked a quickfire first innings (77) to help Martley post a first innings that proved enough to overcome Worcester 2nd XI who fell short by 19 runs.