MATT Stokes had put on a flat cap to go with his wellies and waterproofs.

It was sodden at Grange Park, and heavy rain continued to fall ahead of a Cheshire League fixture against Bunbury’s seconds.

He is Hartford Cricket Club’s captain, but has helped prepare the pitch this season because they don’t have a groundsman.

His teammates, huddled in the pavilion, were keen to play because they knew they might not do again there.

In the end, the weather won.

It was another outcome that had gone against the Northwich team, who had conceded on six previous occasions to their scheduled opponents this season.

Put simply, a club that has behind it more than 100 previous campaigns doesn’t have enough members who want to play for them each Saturday.

If it wasn’t for the dedication of Stokes, and a handful of other regulars with a long attachment to the village’s team, then Hartford would likely have disappeared already.

On the same rainy day Martin Pickup, who told me he had joined 41 years earlier and still looked forward to pulling on his whites, looked out on the covered square while he spoke.

“I worry for adult cricket in the town,” he said.

“Because we’re not the only ones facing this struggle.”

While Hartford are perhaps closer to a point of no return than their neighbours, it isn’t by much.

Almost without exception, clubs in mid Cheshire are fighting to find 22 players – two senior teams – to play cricket each week.

Concessions to rivals, certainly at second-team level, are more frequent than previously.

Where there are gaps, juniors are being asked to fill in.

Except not everybody has a pool of emerging talent to tap into, at least not any more.

Hartford themselves used to have teams for youngsters at under 11s, under 13s and under 15s, but they have long since gone.

However Stokes insists his favourite club haven’t just let that happen.

In fact, they have attempted a number of times to attract new members – young and old – with only limited success.

Do people just not want to play cricket? I don’t believe that.

But it is harder than ever to persuade them to, certainly in a 50-over format that requires them to rule out doing anything else on a Saturday.

It feels to me that cricket is approaching a crossroads, and I’d hate to see Hartford fall to the wayside.

“We’ve seen this season through against the odds,” said Stokes.

“But I doubt we can again.”