MPs on both sides of the House of Commons have called for the imminent return of recreational cricket after Boris Johnson dealt a blow to the hopes of amateur players across the country on Tuesday.
The ECB reasserted on Thursday its "strong desire… to see the return of recreational cricket on or around July 4", having been taken by surprise when Mr Johnson described the cricket ball as a "natural vector of disease" in the House of Commons earlier in the week. His comments came on the same day he announced that businesses across the hospitality and tourism sectors could prepare to re-open on July 4.
Alison McGovern, the Labour MP for Wirral South and Shadow Sports Minister, told ESPNcricinfo that a summer without recreational cricket would be "catastrophic" for clubs battling to survive the financial implications of the Covid-19 pandemic.
"The Government have really messed this up for millions who love their sport," Ms McGovern said. "A summer without recreational cricket could be catastrophic for clubs who have already lost so much revenue.
"If they are to stay closed, they deserve a full explanation about why fitness facilities are secondary to pubs in a public health crisis. Most important, we need a clear path for when grassroots sports can get up and running again to enable everyone to plan for the future."
A group of 11 Conservative MPs wrote a letter to the Prime Minister on Tuesday expressing their support "for the immediate resumption of village and amateur cricket".
"The single greatest benefit of such an initiative will be to send a valuable signal of a return towards normality across the United Kingdom although we also believe it will provide clear benefits to mental and physical health whilst being readily compliant with the Government's social distancing guidelines," the MPs wrote.
"As you know, the game of cricket itself is non-contact and players are spread out in wide fielding formations exclusively outdoors where the risk of transmission is already vanishing[ly] small. While guidance will be required around the use of club houses or pavilions - perhaps limiting access to a strict number as with retail and workplaces - it should be more than possible to resume games while respecting government guidance on social distancing.
"While village cricket is a vital part of rural communities, it is also the national summer game in most parts of the UK. We would appreciate if you could give this issue your attention and we copy this letter to the ECB as well, recognising that this is shared responsibility between Government and the cricketing authorities working together. We thought it appropriate eleven of us sign this letter but it has the support of additional colleagues too."
An ECB spokesperson said on Wednesday afternoon that there had been "positive dialogue" with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), adding that the Sports Minister, Nigel Huddleston, "has assured us that positive news will be with us soon".
As things stand, socially-distanced training sessions are the only permissible form of cricket. Some leagues have begun to cancel their formal calendars for this season already, with the ECB announcing a spate of cancellations for its national competitions on Thursday.
The Daily Telegraph - the newspaper for which Mr Johnson previously worked as a columnist - has also launched a campaign to get recreational cricket up and running. Current and former England captains Heather Knight and Michael Vaughan have called for the sport to return as soon as possible at amateur level, while Greg Clark MP wrote in a column for the newspaper that he was "amazed" it remained banned.
On Thursday, England batsman Zak Crawley followed his Test team-mate Mark Wood in calling for the recreational game's imminent return. "We're well aware of it," he said. "We have friends who want to play. I feel like it's time to bring it back.
"You can social distance easily in cricket, you can't put saliva on the ball at international level and you could easily do that at community level, so I'd like to see that decision reserved and get community cricket back on."