Young players at a South Tyneside community cricket club are getting more chances to develop their skills on the pitch thanks to new funding from regional employer The Banks Group.

South Shields Cricket Club has used a £5,000 grant from the Banks Community Fund to install a new artificial wicket at its Dean Road ground, which allows for practice sessions and matches to go ahead throughout the summer.

The juniors had previously nowhere to practice and have had very limited access to the club’s grass pitches on their small square.

The new pitch had replaced an old artificial strip which had been in place since 1980 and was no longer in a safe condition for use, meaning that practice opportunities were being limited.

It’s the second time that South Shields Cricket Club has received a grant from the Banks Community Fund, with funding provided in 2021 for vitally-needed new grounds maintenance equipment.

Last year, the Banks Family Fund also helped to subsidise the girls’ section’s trip to the home of cricket, Lord’s in London, and enabled all the girls to benefit from a memorable experience which included a chance meeting with England’s leading batsman, Joe Root.

As well as having four senior teams every weekend, South Shields CC has one of the North East’s most successful junior sections, with its 13 junior teams playing a total of 176 games in the 2022 season.

The club has also run free cricket camps right through the school summer holidays, with volunteer coaches and coaches funded by the club putting on sessions on 28 separate days that were attended by more than 50 boys and girls on average each day.

Thausha Fernando and Patrick William-Powlett of South Shields Cricket Club with Jamilah Hassan of the Banks Group

“As well as allowing them to learn about the game, taking part in our sessions has a real impact on young players’ self confidence and team working skills”

Primary school children from disadvantaged backgrounds who would otherwise find it difficult to access the sport for financial reasons are prioritised for these sessions.

Equipment and playing kit is also regularly supplied to any young players that need it, while coaches run free programmes throughout the year in local primary schools which are targeted due to their high percentages of children entitled to free school meals. This programme has been successful in getting children from disadvantaged backgrounds engaged with cricket at the club.

Patrick William-Powlett, chairman and coach at South Shields Cricket Club, says: “We’ve seen a huge growth in the numbers of boys and girls wanting to play cricket over the last few years and we do everything we can to make sure kids from across the local community can access the game, regardless of their circumstances.

“Providing the right kind of practice and playing facilities is central to that and having this new artificial pitch is going to make a massive difference to the amount of time juniors can spent working on their game, especially in wet summers like the one we’ve had this year.

“Many of the families living in our surrounding communities are facing a lot of challenges, especially at the moment, so we’re very focused on making sure that there aren’t any barriers to playing cricket for any young person that wants to.

“As well as allowing them to learn about the game, taking part in our sessions has a real impact on young players’ self-confidence and team working skills, and keeps them busy and engaged with fun, structured activities when they might otherwise not be.

“The new pitch is already making a big difference to what we can offer our juniors and will help to take our coaching on to a new level, so we’re really grateful for Banks’ continuing support in making our training facilities the best they can be.”

Jamilah Hassan, community relations manager at the Banks Group, adds: “The South Shields Cricket Club coaching team goes to amazing lengths to give any local kids who want to play cricket the chance to do so in a safe, supportive environment.

“It’s great to hear how well used the new pitch is being already and we hope as many young players are able to make use of it this summer and beyond.”