Cricket has for a long time been recognised as a much-loved spectator sport across the UK. In recent years, however, the game has also benefited from increasing popularity as a leisure pursuit among people of all ages.

Based on statistics for 2010 from the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB), there are at least one million people – including children – who regularly play the sport in the UK.

Membership numbers for cricket clubs in 2010 meanwhile, stood at over 221,000, a rise of four per cent on 2009 figures.

Reasons for the growth in cricket’s popularity in the UK

Perhaps one of the triggers for the growing interest in cricket in the UK is the high public profile of many of the players who have graced the professional English circuit in recent years – Andrew Flintoff, Alastair Cook, and Monty Panesar are all good examples.

Another could be the fact that England is no longer seen by many as the underdog in international cricket – as the team proved in November when it decisively beat India by ten wickets in the second Test match.

When your national team inspires such pride, it can also encourage amateurs to try and experience such success.

Finally, it should be acknowledged that cricket is no longer the male preserve it once was. A growing number of female players are being encouraged to join cricket teams, and, even though female players do not currently earn the same as their professional male counterparts, events such as the women’s cricket World Cup are proving a real inspiration for many would-be female players.

How to get involved in amateur cricket

There are many cricket clubs scattered across the country which are always keen to take on new members. The ECB and local authorities will be able to provide a list of clubs based in or around a particular area.

It is advisable in the first instance to try and attend a few training sessions at a particular club in order to build the stamina, skills, and confidence necessary to perform well at a competitive level.

Recommended clothing and equipment

Although some amateur clubs do provide some basic cricketing accessories, it is always advisable in the longer term to invest in reasonably priced, quality cricket gear that is both comfortable to wear, and can assist in optimising playing performance.

The most essential items to buy are a cricket bat, gloves, pads, and a protective helmet. Cricket whites are usually obligatory for matches; and there are, it must be said, some very comfortable, high performance trousers, shoes and tops on the market which are well worth considering.

The key to finding the best cricket gear is to choose a high street or online shop which deals with some of the more trusted and professionally respected brand names in cricket – such as Kookaburra, Readers, Gray Nicholls, Slazenger and Puma. As well as this, such items need not necessarily be expensive if the buyer knows where to look.