Pupils from Samuel Laycock School had a day to remember last week as they travelled to London to take part in the Lord’s Taverners National Table Cricket Finals.
The Ashton-under-Lyne school’s side were one of nine to compete in the Nursery Pavilion, at Lord’s Cricket Ground, for the right to call themselves national champions.
The event, which was made possible thanks to the support of players of the People’s Postcode Lottery and Ford, is now in its 19th year and, working with 30 county cricket boards across the UK, more than 300 schools took part in the 10 regional heats to qualify for the finals.
Samuel Laycock finished ninth in the finals and PE teacher Nick Small revealed he could not contain his emotions at watching the pupils take part.
He said: “It can be pretty emotional watching them play because you just feel so proud at what they are achieving, not only to learn the rules of the sport but to work together, I’m overcome with joy for this side.
“It has been unbelievable for the children, it has been all about them. I have been so impressed with the way they have conducted themselves and no matter what the outcome was, just taking part has been incredible. It’s that inclusivity which makes this sport so special to the children.”
Played on a table tennis table with side panels and sliding fielders, a ball launcher, weighted plastic ball and wooden bat, table cricket enables young people with severe physical and learning disabilities to enjoy cricket and represent their school on a competitive basis.
The game not only gives opportunities for competitive play and social integrations, it also improves life-skills including self-confidence, independence and social skills.
And Mr Small hailed the work done by Lord’s Taverners to cater for all the schools at the finals.
He said: “Lord’s Taverner’s have done a fantastic job, they have made the sport so accessible to people and helped us with travelling down to London. Without that support we might not have been able to play. “
Pupil Grace Ball, 12, from Manchester, added: “Table cricket is my favourite sport because I love hitting the ball for a four or a six. I like the sport because it makes me feel really happy to play with my friends.”
Watching on as the school competed at Lord’s was Radio 1 DJ, cricket lover and member of Lord’s Taverners Greg James.
And he was excited to see the charity making cricket available to people of all abilities.
“I’ve never seen table cricket before on this sort of scale and it’s been brilliant,” he said.
“I’ve seen it in videos and heard all about it, but to see hundreds of kids from all over the country in one place, just enjoying it and having a day playing cricket at Lord’s, it doesn’t really get any better than that.
“There are kids who love cricket, but also some who just like the team element of it all, the community aspect.
“What I love about it, is that it’s not exclusive to people and it has its own fans.”
The Lord’s Taverners is the UK’s leading youth cricket and disability sports charity whose aim is to give disadvantaged and disabled young people a sporting chance – go to www.lordstaverners.org to find out more.