WORCESTERSHIRE County Cricket Club are the masterminds behinds behind a new nationwide grassroots initiative.

Earlier this year the County submitted a scheme as part of the 'Improving the Health of English Cricket' project launched by County Championship sponsors PPP healthcare and the England and Wales Cricket Board.

'Improving the Health of English Cricket' is open to all 18 first-class counties and aimed at supporting the development of the game at the foot of the ladder across the country.

Worcestershire have now had details of their scheme rubber-stamped by the ECB's assessment panel which means the initial grant of £2,000 will soon be on the way from PPP healthcare.

The cash will be used to help fund Worcestershire's Master Classes, which will be a series of projects for bowlers, batsmen wicketkeepers and fielders.

There will be two initial Master Classes in the north and south of the county. From these the most promising youngsters from each age group will be selected for a final session.

Each class will be conducted by a specialist coach who will work alongside Mark Scott, the County's Cricket Development Officer.

It is intended that the Master Classes will provide a direct benefit to the best up-and-coming young players in the county, and to those coaches who will be working with them in their own clubs and schools.

The positive response to 'Improving the Health of English Cricket' across the country means that there will be stiff competition for Worcestershire when it comes to judging for the first annual awards to be made in September 2000. Awards of £6,000, £5,000 and £4,000 will be made to the top three schemes as voted by the assessment panel.

ECB national development manager, Keith Pont said the scheme provides a chance for the game to develop.

"It has been well received by the first-class counties and offers a simple, quick and easy way of accessing vital funds to assist in local development."

Meanwhile, Worcestershire Supporters' Association's shop has raised almost £7,000 towards their funds despite a decrease from 1998.

It made a proft of £6,793 during the past year while supporters also made a £2,000 donation enabling one of the County's youngsters to attend coaching at the Zimbabwe Cricket Academy.

Besides providing funds for the County, the Association also made a £2,544 grant for a bowling machine and mat at Worcestershire Cricket Centre in Evesham, £500 for the county Player of the Year awards and £100 to the Lord Cobham Trust to enable a party of youngsters to attend coaching at Lord's.

The Association's annual report also revealed a donation had been made to the club of £2,212 for the floral displays at the New Road ground in 1998 provided by Webbs Garden Centre.

"The shop profit is down on recent years, but we are now having to compete against the club's own shop and decreased match attendances," said chairman Ken Mills.

Coach trips to away matches had again been well supported, and the fifty-fifty competition, raised £2,654 for the ground improvement fund.

President Betty Godfrey, chairman Ken Mills, treasurer Bob Brookes and secretary Pat Mills were all re-elected together with committee members Ken Rone and Harold Stephens, who had retired by rota. John Rowley was also voted onto the committee.