Former Notts CCC skipper Bicknell signs for Belvoir CC

TUESDAY, 4.30pm: Belvoir cricket club has pulled off a major coup by recruiting former Nottinghamshire CCC skipper and England A batsman Darren Bicknell.

Bicknell has agreed to turn out for the Knipton-based club in their South Nottinghamshire League campaign next season, their promotion to Division A allowing them to field professional players.

The 41-year-old, who also coaches the club's junior section, brings seven years experience at Trent Bridge allied to 13 years at Surrey and two County Championship-winners medals.

His signature is part of a major new cricket revolution born in the idyllic setting of the Belvoir estate, the new Belvoir Castle Cricket Trust.

The charitable organisation was formed under the twin alliance of Belvoir Cricket Club and the Duke and Duchess of Rutland and boasts Bicknell as trust director.

He said: "This is such a great opportunity. I hope I can emulate John Barclay's successes at Arundel - and really make cricket a focal point for local families.

"I am also excited by the chance to bring in children from urban areas to the Belvoir Estate to enjoy cricket and the countryside."

Bicknell turned out for the Sir Richard Hadlee XI at Knipton over the summer against a Duke of Rutland XI, a match which earned 5,000 proceeds for the club. Last week Belvoir CC voted unanimously to plough the money into the Trust to cover start-up costs.

Club chairman Gary Fellowes said: "We see tremendous opportunities in working together with Darren and the Trust - it can only help more youngsters to get involved in the game at all levels."

The trust has a highly-knowledgable backer in John Barclay, former MCC Committee member, Sussex captain and England tour manager, who has agreed to become a trustee.

Barclay is director of cricket and coaching at the Arundel Castle Cricket Foundation which has seen 250,000 youngsters taste cricket.

It's a model which Trust chairman Phil O'Brien is keen to emulate: "Cricket comes at the bottom of the league for losing players from school to adult life. Stats show that from 100 kids aged 12 to 16 there are on average only seven still playing at 20 to 24. It's shocking.

"The Trust aims to be a model of how to make the cricket experience relevant and entertaining for all the family and where better than the grounds of a beautiful castle."

Gunning to make the game more accessible to women and the family, Emma, Duchess of Rutland has agreed to be patron of the trust.

High-profile women trustees also include Financial Times columnist Mrs Moneypenny, a well-known cricket widow, and Emma Agnew, editor of BBC East Midlands Today, and wife of BBC cricket correspondent Jonathan.

Emma, Duchess of Rutland said: "It's fantastic that cricket in our grounds will be accessible to so many people.

"The cricket club have done brilliant things at Knipton over the last couple of years - and we hope to see further growth under Darren's leadership."