KEIGHLEY Cricket Club will finally return to competitive action this Saturday, although still restricted by Covid-19 protocols.

Games will be played in a normal format, although stoppages will be enforced to ensure the correct procedures can be carried out.

However, amongst all the Covid chaos, cricket will return, and Keighley will be back out on the field after a prolonged period away.

The West Yorkshire based side will kick off the campaign at home to Bankfoot CC, in the Bradford Premier 1st Division.

Reflecting on what’s a strange time for sports, chairman Paul Barker, said: “It’s all a bit strange. It’s effectively still Covid cricket when we return.

“There’s no teas, there’s no sharing of dressing rooms, there’s no spectators and you’ve got to sanitise your hands every six overs.

“The ECB haven’t given a date on when things might be reviewed again, but it’s very similar to last year and I wouldn’t be surprised if it remains like this for the first half of the season.”

“Thankfully though, we are back to full overs and there’s promotion and relegation, so it will be competitive.”

Barker added: “I was very pessimistic about whether the season was going to start on time.

“It’s now all hands to the pump to get everything ready for the start of the season and it’s hard work at the moment.”

Although Covid restrictions remain, Keighley and Barker are excited about the season ahead.

“I am really looking forward to it. We’ve got a good group of youngsters who’ve come on a lot.

“We will miss Muhammad-ul-Haq a lot, who is actually stranded in Pakistan, our oversees player.

“We might only have him for the remanding six weeks of the season, which is a big loss. I would have expected us to get top four with him playing.

“However, I'm still hopeful we can get top four and I’m expecting a good year."

With such a young squad, Barker spoke about the importance of having some more experienced heads in the squad.

"A lot of these young lads have been here since 13 years-old. They are developing well but you've still got to have an old head in there.

"The experienced players will be massive for us because young lads, if they get on a bad run, they need someone to put their arm round them and say, you can do it."

"You need a little bit of TLC sometimes, but yes, I think we've got a great balance between young and experienced heads.

"From the batters to the fast bowlers and into the spinners as well. I'm really looking forward to it.

On returning, Barker added: "There's a real buzz around the place and a real hunger within the players, to turn up to training, put the work in and improve.

"Getting out the house will be a blessing for the players too, after being stuck in lockdown for so long."