WORCESTERSHIRE Cricket Board reaped the benefits of playing a major role in the new All Stars Cricket programme.

The England and Wales Cricket Board ran the initiative with 487 five to eight year olds signing up to 23 clubs across the county last year.

It aimed to attract youngsters to the game for life and from a Worcestershire perspective to find the next Josh Tongue.

The county board helped to set up many centres where youngsters of any skill level could join in with eight weeks of coaching.

Board cricket development director Tom Hill said: “2017 was the first year we ran All Stars Cricket and we had some exceptional results.

“In our first year, we had 487 new kids sign up to 23 local clubs. Out of those, 70 per cent were new to cricket and will come back in 2018.

“Our clubs did a great job exciting these kids aged five to eight.

“In addition, a large number came down to watch games at New Road and be the guard of honours so we can really hook them into our game.

“All Stars Cricket is back in 2018 with more exciting games and activities for both new and returning kids.

"We are hoping to at least double that number of children this year and get more clubs involved.”

Hill continued: “Eighty five per cent of people that play, follow or attend cricket games started playing when they were under 16.

“We know the more we can get to earlier, the more chance there is of them becoming a fan, a volunteer, a player, a groundsman or even a professional — a Josh Tongue.

“You look at Josh’s success. He started on the local playground. He came through the programme, playing in the under 10s when six or seven.

“That’s the exciting thing. Of those 487 kids, one or two of those, a handful, will stand out already and go on to be the new Josh Tongue.

“We want talented, young kids hooked onto cricket and it’s about creating a following.”

People can pre-register for All Stars 2018 at ecb.co.uk/play/all-stars.