Club cricket up and down the country took a back seat to World Cup football at the weekend, with England’s 3pm quarter-final against Sweden on Saturday causing postponements galore as captains struggled to rally their teams.
One man who had more reason than most to take his eyes off the events in Russia, however, was England’s former World Cup goalkeeper Joe Hart, who chose instead to turn out for Shrewsbury in what would prove to be his first league match since 2007.
Hart, 31, won the last of his 75 England caps against Brazil in November and had been his country’s first-choice keeper at both the 2014 World Cup and Euro 2016.
However, he was overlooked for the 23-man squad for the on-going World Cup, with Jordan Pickford, Gareth Southgate’s preferred pick, going on to make a string of world-class saves in a man-of-the-match-winning display in Samara.
Hart’s contribution to his day of sport on Saturday was rather less telling. He came in to bat at No.9 for Shrewsbury, who started the day in third place in the Birmingham & District Premier League, and made 6 from 11 balls in a total of 250 for 8 from 55 overs.
And despite a best haul of 5 for 13 in his previous appearances for the club, Hart was not called upon to bowl as Knowle & Dorridge made 203 for 9 in reply. Mike Barnard (6 for 48) and Henry Blofield (2 for 52) shared the bulk of the honours as Shrewsbury fell just short of forcing the win.
“Joe was a credit to himself, his cricket club and his community yesterday,” tweeted Knowle bowler Chris Cheslin. “Great to see him back on the cricket field enjoying the game surrounded by his friends and family.”
As a teenager, Hart had been in the same Worcestershire youth team as Steven Davies, the former England wicketkeeper, but put his cricket ambitions on hold as his football career developed.