ILMINSTER Cricket Club are celebrating after being named the NatWest Under-19 T20 Club of the Year at last week’s OSCA awards at Lord’s.

The Ilminster Bears, who play in the Under-19 Club T20 organised by the Somerset Cricket Board (SCB), were praised for their efforts in attracting crowds to the club for Friday evening matches with music, coloured kits, Prosecco tents and fancy dress.

Craig Rice, who vice-captains the club’s first XI, said: “The Under-19 competition started two years ago in a bid to keep youngsters in the game, and we have fully embraced it.

“We have been getting 300-400 people in to watch the matches, and it’s great for our young players to perform in front of crowds like that.

“They have become really enjoyable events - even non-cricket fans will come along as they know they will have a fun evening, which is great.

“Every cricket board nominates a club for the national awards and we were put forward by the SCB, so a group of us went to Lord’s for the ceremony.

“We were told it was a unanimous decision and they were full of praise for the way we had embraced it, and for a club like ours to win a national award is brilliant.

“It was a fantastic day up at Lord’s - four of our Under-19 team went along with the coach and myself. Stuart Broad was there and our award was presented by England one-day captain Eoin Morgan.”

Rice also believes the success of the side, and the competition as a whole, will make a difference with regard to players staying in the game at an age where many drop out.

He said: “I think it has helped in that respect.

“Clubs have been struggling to get players to commit past a certain age, but there are certainly lads playing in our Under-19 team who may otherwise have given it up.

“It is also an incentive for our youngsters. We had a couple of Under-15s playing and they were saying how great it was to play in front of big crowds in that atmosphere, so hopefully it will inspire our younger players.”