TAUNTON cricket bat makers Millichamp & Hall are to have the honour of seeing one of their handmade bats presented to Pope Francis later this month.

The company, who are based behind the cricket museum at the Cooper Associates County Ground, are supplying the kit for the Archbishop's XI on their tour to Rome, which begins on October 18.

Explaining the story behind the honour, M&H's Tim Still said: "One of our customers is a Reverend who bought a bat from us two years ago and loved it.

"His teammates in the Archbishop's XI wanted to get involved and asked to use our kit for this year's tour to Rome, something they embark on every other year, and we were more than happy to oblige.

"To say thank you, they have asked for one of our bats to present to the Pope, which is certainly the pinnacle for Millichamp & Hall so far.

"It's great timing, as we are celebrating our 30th anniversary this year. What better way to celebrate than by seeing possibly the most famous person in the world use one of our bats?"

It is believed to be the first time a Taunton company will have one of its products presented to the Pope, and several members of the Archbishop's XI accepted an opportunity to have a net with the M&H kit in the indoor school on Monday.

Netting just along from Somerset's Craig Overton, who was getting in some practice ahead of his upcoming Ashes tour with England, the clergy were put through their paces for around an hour before receiving a tour of the ground.

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Vice-captain Chris Kennedy said: "M&H kit is the best I've ever used, and we love the fact it's made in this country and has great heritage.

"The Pope is not an easy man to get gifts to, and it will be great to go over there with a gift of such good quality to present from one church to the other.

"Both teams will sign the bat and it will be given to the Pope for him to enjoy, while we will also bring one back for the Archbishop of Canterbury.

"The tour symbolises the unity between the churches. There are areas we disagree on, but we agree on so many things and this is an opportunity for the teams to enjoy each other's company through cricket."

The team are no mugs on the field either, as Kennedy explained: "We would be able to hold our own in a decent club league, but we are priests first and foremost and normally manage around six or seven games a year.

"I am not embarrassed to play for this team as I have been for certain teams in the past."

Still added: "Pope Francis is from South America, so I can't imagine he is too familiar with cricket - it will be something new for everyone concerned.

"We have had some world famous cricket stars using our products, but this is something else - everyone knows who the Pope is.

"Hopefully our bats will help the Archbishop's team enjoy their tour, score some runs and pick up some wins."