CLUBS are preparing to finally get the 2020 season under way as the recreational game returns tomorrow.

Oxfordshire’s teams will cross the boundary for the first time this summer after the England and Wales Cricket Board’s (ECB) roadmap to return moved to step four of five, which allows adapted 11-a-side matches.

Only friendlies will take place across the county tomorrow, but the Home Counties Premier League has released its fixtures for an eight-week season starting next Saturday.

Meanwhile, the Cherwell League met virtually last night to discuss when to begin the campaign and the Oxfordshire Cricket Association (OCA) will do the same on Sunday.

All 20 Home Counties teams will be in a pooled division with no promotion or relegation and play eight opponents in close geographical proximity to them.

The opening round of fixtures sees last season’s Division 1 champions Henley visit Aston Rowant, who finished fourth a year ago.

Elsewhere, Banbury travel to Horspath and 2019 Division 2 champions Thame Town host Wargrave.

After the regular season ends on September 5, the top four teams and those finishing fifth to eighth will contest two separate play-offs.

League chairman Martin Phillips said clubs would not be penalised if they cannot fulfil these games, with two indicating they might not be able to use their facilities into September due to winter sports starting.

Phillips also revealed that one team have said they do not have the “appetite” to play beyond the end of the regular campaign, while eight players across a range of ages and abilities do not feel comfortable taking part at all

The league’s chief added: “No-one should be forced to play and nobody should point the finger. It’s a personal choice.

“I just hope the players get to enjoy as much cricket as they can.”

OCA general secretary Ian Royle admitted there were “quite a few hoops to jump through” before its campaign begins, with a provisional start date of August pencilled in.

On Wednesday night, the ECB notified clubs of the precautions they should take to ensure social distancing during games.

Players must check themselves for symptoms at home before the match and use their own equipment where possible, as well as cleaning the bat when leaving the field.

Meanwhile, no sweat or saliva should be applied to the ball, with ‘hygiene breaks’ taking place every six overs or 20 minutes.

Among other guidelines, players must remain socially-distanced at all times, with wicket keepers and slip fielders told to stay at least one metre apart.

Batsmen must run on marked lines either side of the strip to maintain distancing.

Players must keep to the precautions during wicket celebrations and drinks breaks, with groups limited to a maximum of 30 participants, coaches and officials.