PUPILS from Ulverston Victoria High 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 Cumbria 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.
Ulvertson finished runners-up in the finals and PE teacher George Brettle could not contain his pride at their performance.
He said: “It has been a really special day for everyone involved, the atmosphere around the place is fantastic.
“It is brilliant to see them all playing together; it brings a smile to our faces. We only started playing at the end of last year so to have made the finals is an amazing achievement.”
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 after commuting down to London the night before the event, Mr Brettle revealed how excited his pupils were to travel for the occasion.
He said: “We came down the night before and stayed in a hotel in London which was very special because for many of these children this was their first time in London so they were very excited.
“The kids have to pick the batting and bowling order and the fielding positions themselves so they have to take on a lot of responsibility.”
Pupil Daniel Hopkins, 12, from Cumbria, added: “I love to play sport and table cricket is my favourite because it brings people together.
“Anybody can come and play the sport, it does not matter how good you are. It is a special event because I can meet new people.”
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.