A ground-breaking table cricket league for children and young adults with complex physical disabilities was launched in Sussex on Friday.
The joint project between Sussex Cricket Foundation and Chailey Heritage Foundation is based in Chailey Heritage’s brand-new Dream Centre in North Chailey, near Lewes.
Students from Sussex Cricket’s network of special educational needs school and colleges are competing in the league using adapted equipment built by engineer Dr Martin Langner from Chailey Heritage that allows those with the most complex needs to operate batting and bowling devices independently.
In Friday’s first fixture, Chailey Heritage School took on Woodlands Meed School. The two-innings match ended in a thrilling tie, with both teams’ making a combined total of 357.
Further rounds of the competition will take place each half-term between now and the summer of 2020 when the eventual winner will be crowned.
Sussex Cricket Foundation coaches have been funded by the Lord’s Taverners charity to support the teams taking part and officiate the matches.
Opening up the game to other special educational needs schools and colleges in the county, the league builds on the success of weekly table cricket sessions for Chailey Heritage School pupils that have been delivered by Sussex Cricket Foundation over the last two years.
Aroop Tanna, Sussex Cricket’s disability cricket manager said: “We’re thrilled to be launching this new competition with our friends at Chailey Heritage. I remember our conversation 12 months ago when we discussed how amazing it would be to get young people with the most complex disabilities playing table cricket matches independently.
“It is fantastic that with the support of Lord’s Taverners, this collaboration is able to bring young people together from different schools and colleges to access competitive sport in such a spectacular environment.
“The new league is another example of Sussex Cricket Foundation’s aim to grow disability cricket and make the game more accessible to the wider community.”
Al Carter, School Sports Development Officer for Chailey Heritage School said: “We are thrilled to be enabling young people with complex disabilities to access sport thanks to these devices.
“This group have never had the opportunity to participate like this, but through our innovation and partnership with Sussex Cricket Foundation and Lord’s Taverners, they now can take part in meaningful inter-school competition.”
Baz Baron, a teacher at Woodlands Meed School, added: “A huge thanks to Penny at Woodlands Meed, Al from Chailey Heritage and Aroop at Sussex Cricket for creating this exciting bond our schools now have.
“Hedgehog class are honoured to represent Woodlands Meed and we have all been very excited about the fixture at Chailey Heritage. Our children have taken to table cricket with keeness and thoroughly enjoy playing. It’s great to see how far they have come in their skills in such a short space of time. We don’t like cricket. We love it!”
Sussex Cricket is at The 1st Central County Ground Eaton Road, Hove BN3 3AN
Images courtesy of Chailey Heritage Foundation)