A LONG-STANDING cricketing rivalry is renewed on Saturday (June 24). Cirencester entertain Stroud in the Gloucestershire section of the West of England Premier League.

Both sides have made a fair start to the season and are jostling for a position towards the top of the table. It will be a keen contest.

Growing up in the Five Valleys but being schooled in Cirencester gives me a foot in both camps. I have memories of the players who were star names for the respective XIs if not of individual matches.

Cullimore, Fryer, O’Brien and Nash were true Stroudies.

We are all familiar with the first of those names. If you are not, look at the distinctive green and red gravel lorries that fill our roads. Dougie O’Brien was a skilled forward for Brimscombe.

For Cirencester, it is the bowlers I remember. Bill Mitcheson could bowl for ever as could Dave Collis. Dave is still with us and is an amiable if slowish-moving neighbour.

Ken Carroll was a left arm quick bowler and Mike Timbrell an opening bat. Did not Ken have a brother Dave who played other sports? Golf perhaps and rugby?

Both Ken and Mike played for the greatest of Gloucestershire grammar schools. It was an honour for me to replace Mike in my days at Victoria Road.

Both Cirencester and Stroud now have successful youth programmes. Cirencester CC have more than 100 cricketers under 10 years old on their books, with the club strongly supporting the two ECB initiatives, All Stars Cricket and Chance To Shine.

All Stars, launched this season, is for boys and girls aged five to eight. Nearly 50 youngsters are enrolled at our town club and take part enthusiastically, wearing their smart blue kit.

Proud parent Vic Trykush was thrilled with the chance his youngsters were being offered, and is spreading the news to other parents.

I knew Vic was a football man but he’s now looking towards cricket. Start playing yourself, Vic. It is not too late.

The youth system at Stroud has been one of magnificent success.

One of the founders of their youth scheme was Frank Birt who played for a team known as Cotswold. When the Stroud scheme started first in the queue was a small wiry 10-year-old called Robert.

Years later he was known throughout the cricketing world. Everyone now called him Jack and chuckled at his quirky hat.

Jack Russell kept wicket for England and played in 54 Tests and 40 One-Day internationals.

Everywhere he went he took with him the true spirit of the Cotswolds.

All the youngsters now enjoying themselves at Lechlade, Fairford, Poulton, Cirencester and so many other clubs can have no better example than Jack Russell to follow. They are starting out on a fine cricketing adventure that could take them right to the top – if they stick with the game.

Cricket has a broad base but as the youngsters reach their teens they drop out. Cirencester are working hard at initiatives to keep young players interested and involved. They deserve to succeed.

I return from my Italian idyll in time for the festival of cricket at Cheltenham. Earlier than ever this year there are 11 days of cricket. Three T20 games give the side a chance to keep the season alive. Middlesex, Kent and Sussex will provide strong opposition, but if two victories can be achieved a quarter final place will be within our grasp.

County opposition is provided by old friends Worcestershire and Glamorgan. The Worcestershire bubble has burst and perhaps both matches will be victories. Hopefully we may see Michael Klinger playing in both forms of the game. He has been sorely missed.

The sad news is the Cheltenham College chapel organ is being repaired and there will be no service this year. The good news is I am hearing exciting things about catering and also a new scoreboard. Roll on July 3.