SHOPPERS were stumped when a giant cricket ball was rolled into the town centre on Saturday as part of a quirky fundraiser.

Eight members of the Swindon United Churches’ Cricket Club took turns to roll the ball the eight miles from their ground on the outskirts of Swindon to Wharf Green.

They were aiming to help raise £2,000 to repair their roller – a piece of vital equipment to maintain the ground.

Members were sponsored to take on the challenge, but they also gathered donations in buckets from passers-by.

It is hoped they generated about £600 on top of the £600 they have already raised through other events.

Club secretary David Martin said: “Last summer, the weather was just a nightmare and all cricket clubs, especially the smaller ones like ourselves, rely on matches being played for our income.

“Expenditure was the same but over half the games were cancelled. It was the wettest summer on record in England and once the pitch gets wet it takes a long time to dry out.

“In the middle of all this, the most expensive piece of equipment for any club, the roller, blows its engine which left us with a £2,000 bill.”

The club set about organising a series of fundraisers. One idea was to cover a large inflatable beachball in papier mache, paint it red to resemble a cricket ball and gather sponsorship to roll it into town.

The route rook them through Stratton, along the Oxford Road, past Greenbridge and into town, mostly keeping to footpaths.

Some members carried large cricket bats, explaining what was happening, and music referencing the word “roll” played in the background. The challenge took three hours and 45 minutes.

David said: “We had some nice rolling music going along with us, like Roll Me Away and lots of great hits..

“People have been very generous. When I came to Swindon originally there were twice as many local cricket clubs as there are now. But the clubs take a lot of work and support to keep going.”

The United Churches’ Cricket Club has served Swindon for the best part of a century. Most have members have not been churchgoers and today the club has about 18 members and plays in the Saturday Wiltshire League and Swindon Evening League. The club is seeking a handful of new members.

To donate to the appeal or inquire about joining, call David on 01793 770171.