STUNNED cricketers have been hit for six after their ground was targeted by arsonists for the second time in three weeks.
Bosses at Simonside Cricket Club, in Cleadon, are reeling after a fire at their Oakleigh Gardens ground reduced their storage units to rubble, and destroyed precious equipment which had been salvaged from a previous fire on March 26.
The two recent attacks have come just months after thieves stole expensive grass cutters from the club last November.
Now with just days until the start of the new season, devastated chairman and captain Garry Haynes says Saturday’s home game against Whiteleas will have to be played at another venue.
He said: “Everything we have has been wiped out. This is just mindless vandalism and it seems as though whoever has done this is determined to finish us off. I can’t comprehend this and I am too logical a person to understand why anyone would do it.
“It does seem like someone has got it in for us, but I am not aware of us having any enemies, we’re not that kind of club.”
The fire, at 10.20pm on Sunday, has destroyed a wicket-spiking machine, a sit-on roller, and damaged another rolling machine valued at £5,000.
The storage units – two garages, have been partially demolished by the blaze.
Locks on the doors have been broken, and paint used for marking the cricket pitch boundary has been tipped on to a pathway outside.
Club officials are still waiting to find out if they are entitled to compensation from the two previous attacks at the ground.
Mr Haynes said the garages will have to be demolished, and the club cannot buy new equipment because there is nowhere to store it.
He said: “We’ve made huge strides over the past couple of years in terms of generating new interest in cricket and keeping the club going, but this is a huge knock back for us all.”
President and groundsman Dave Scrafton has been involved with Simonside Cricket Club for over 20 years as a player and volunteer.
He said: “This is very hard for us to take. After what happened three weeks ago we were determined to carry on and we still are.”
The blaze is now being investigated by police. Anyone with information is asked to call police on 03456 043 043.