Table cricket tourney a huge success

IT was a boundary busting day of cricket as school teams from across the South West went head to head for the Table Cricket regional finals, writes Toby Crews.

Over 60 children flocked to the Sir Christopher Ondaatje Devon Cricket Centre, on the University of Exeter’s Streatham Campus, for the event to play a specially adapted version of the sport which gives those with severe physical or learning disabilities the opportunity to compete.

Devon Cricket Development Officer Steve Pritchard helped to bring the event to Exeter for the first time and was thrilled with how it went, he commented: “It’s gone really well. Everyone arrived on-time and seemed to be very happy.

“We’ve seen some great cricket today and there have been a lot of positive comments about the quality of the facility. I would like to say a special thank you to Active Devon and Exeter College’s Young Leaders whose support has been invaluable.”

Table cricket uses a table-tennis table sized playing surface where the batsperson scores runs by hitting a small ball to different boundary walls.

Meanwhile the fielding opposition use special “sliding fielders” to defend their boundaries. The table-top format makes the game ideal for wheelchair users and requires close team work between the six – eight players on each side.

The Exeter leg of the competition was the last of 10 regional heats which have taken place across the country this season. For the second year running Victoria School reigned supreme, and will now fly the flag for the South West as they set out to defend their national title at Lords in June.

Victoria Player Liam Drummund explained how the side had seen off some tough competition this year, he said: “The South West is one the best regions for table cricket, new teams are popping up and doing very well very quickly.

“You need a mental toughness to get through the whole tournament, but we’ve got a really good team atmosphere, and we’re all good mates.

Former player, turned Victoria Coach Ray Hansford added: “The team have played really well today and it’s been a good day.

“Table cricket is a game of strategy. All it takes is a bad over and the game could be won or lost right there. I’ve been impressed with the teams fielding. They’ve trained really hard and have developed a lot.”

Now in its 14th year, the National Table Cricket Competition is organised by cricket charity the Lord’s Taverners. Volunteer Les Rowland and South West table cricket coordinator Rob Belbin ensured the day’s competition ran smoothly and highlighted the benefits of table cricket.

Les commented: “Table Cricket is a brilliant sport, which gives those with disabilities the chance to participate in sport where they may otherwise have not been able to.

“The great thing is that this is a team sport, so it teaches players to communicate and strategize together whilst meeting players from other schools. It’s brilliant that over the last decade or so we have seen an increase in participation and the standard of cricket has also certainly improved.”

Rob added: “We’ve been really pleased with the response to the event, with 10 schools taking part. It’s been fantastic to have the brilliant young officials from Exeter College and Queen Elizabeth College Dorset running the tables and officiating and we can’t thank them enough for their assistance today..

“The Devon Cricket Centre has also been the ideal location – it meets all the requirements that we have and it’s brilliant to have the whole building. We’ve been looking around for a more permanent venue for the competition, and might have finally found a home for the South West regional finals.”

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