ALL Stars Cricket is proving a hit at Taunton Cricket Club, who are welcoming between 60 and 70 five-to-eight-year-olds every Thursday evening as part of the ECB initiative.

The children received an extra boost last Thursday, as Somerset captain Tom Abell and All Stars mascot ‘Ali Starr’ were present to help run the fun activities aimed at encouraging participation in cricket among youngsters.

Darrell Vickery, who voluntarily runs the sessions alongside his daughters Emily and Charlotte, said: “It’s been brilliant for us.

“The numbers we’ve been getting have been excellent, the kids have a great time and we often see them down here on other nights practicing with their parents, such is their new found enthusiasm for the game.”

Emily added: “Some parents have told me that this has become the highlight of the week for their kids, who ask them every day whether it’s ‘cricket night’ tonight!”

Taking part in All Stars Cricket came at a cost - £40 for eight hour-long sessions - but included additional extras such as a cricket bat, ball, backpack, All Stars t-shirt and baseball cap.

Abell, who came through the ranks at Taunton CC himself, said: “It’s been absolutely fantastic, I’ve really enjoyed it.

“It’s great to see so many young kids getting stuck in and so full of energy.

“I was this sort of age when I first picked up a bat, so I think this is a really good initiative - anything that encourages kids to get involved in the game is healthy.

“You only have to look at our win over Yorkshire to see how influential the local young lads such as Craig Overton and Jack Leach were - hopefully one or two of those that are here tonight will be the next in line!”

The captain added: “I enjoy this part of the role - we are in a fortunate position to be able to get involved with things like this and hopefully it will inspire kids to keep playing.”

Somerset County Gazette:

SMILES: The enthusiastic young cricketers at Taunton CC.

Taunton are not the only club to have made a success of the scheme, as Somerset Cricket Board’s Matt Counsell explained.

“There are 38 clubs in Somerset taking part, so in all just shy of 1,200 kids are signed up to All Stars Cricket in the county,” he said.

“The feedback has been positive, and it’s brilliant to have that many children involved - one of the nicest parts of it is that the bat and ball are included, as it then allows them to play with their families outside of the sessions.

“We went to one club where, of 40 kids, 35 were still playing half an hour after the session finished, which just shows the enthusiasm so many of the kids have for the game.

“Somerset CCC have been brilliant in their support,” he added.

“Every child in Somerset, Devon and Cornwall who signed up received a free ticket to a T20 match, and the likes of Tom Abell, Eddie Byrom and Paul van Meekeren have been out and about getting involved with various clubs.

“Overall, I think the first year has gone really well.”