A HISTORIC cricket club believes a new bowling machine will help it reach the next level.

Witney Mills Cricket Club proudly unveiled the new kit earlier this month after a £3,000 grant from Conservative county councillor for Witney North & East Dr Suzanne Bartington.

The club has been using the bowling machine since July and the new kit represents the next phase of its plan to expand.

First team captain Michael Dove said: “This will allow us to continue the development of our youngsters as they get older and need better practice facilities.

“It’s been a massive addition and had a huge effect on the seniors as well.

“It’s a cliche, but we’ve been a bit of a sleeping giant in recent years so we’ve got a long-term plan to grow.”

Witney Mills, which is more than 100 years old, only started its junior section three years ago but already boasts 150 young people across five age groups.

Four members of the club’s u15 team made their debuts for the senior second XI this season and Mr Dove hopes more will bridge the gap in the coming years.

There are also hopes to form a third senior XI, although league rules stipulate this would force the club to find a second ground.

Mr Dove met Dr Bartington to discuss the club in March, but it was a surprise when the councillor, who is also Oxfordshire County Council’s cycling champion, offered financial help.

He said: “I know Suzanne through work we’ve done together on helping to run and promote other community events, so I approached her with a view to trying to identify funding sources.

“We didn’t know about this fund and we were absolutely delighted and extremely grateful when she said she could provide us with £3,000 to cover the cost of buying the machine.

Dr Bartington’s grant came from her councillor priority fund, which enables her to allocate up to £15,000 of public money every year to local causes.

This year, she has also given £5,000 to the planned improvements of play facilities on the town’s Madley Park estate.

She said: “I was very impressed with the case that the club made, the atmosphere there and the work it is doing to involve more and more local children in the sport and in exercise.”

The councillor stayed to watch some of the first XI’s match against Bletchley, which they lost by four wickets.