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27 Aug

Walking Cricket match brings community together

A special walking cricket match in Barnsley has gone down a storm with the community.

Walking Cricket, developed as a new concept in 2019, takes the traditional game’s rules and adds one more – no running – to make it accessible, no matter what the ability.

The sport’s become a lifeline, particularly in the pandemic for potentially isolated older people – not only for its physical rewards, but its mental and social benefits.

Now an enthused crowd witnessed the first ever Yorkshire Walking Cricket county match at the Monk Bretton Cricket Club, where cricketing legend Darren Gough first started out, in Barnsley, this week.

The club, where cricketing legend Darren Gough first started out, played host to the Yorkshire Walking Cricket team and the Yorkshire ‘Allcomers’ – a team made up of male and female players from across teams across the county, yesterday (Thursday, 26 August).

The 10-a-side game was a collaboration with the Yorkshire Cricket Foundation (YCF) and u3a, an organisation to support older people.

The ‘Allcomers,’ who were first into bat, set an impressive total of 153-4 in 20 overs, with the highest pairing score set by David Hunter and Perter Hermes with 29.

The Yorkshire team knew they would have to bat well after the tea break in order to chase down the high target.

Yorkshire batted impressively and finished on 200-2, with the highest partnership of 30 runs from John Dalton and Ian Lodge.

It’s an exciting day – this is the very first county match in Yorkshire for Walking Cricket and it is so important to me. – Mac McKechnie, the organiser of the match and founder of the first Walking Cricket side in Yorkshire – the Barnsley u3a Walking Cricket team.

Watching on from the side lines was match organiser Mac McKechnie, 71, the founder of the first Walking Cricket side in Yorkshire – the Barnsley u3a Walking Cricket team.

The Armed Forces Veteran, who has since gone on to help set up teams including in Doncaster, Sheffield, Huddersfield and Wakefield, said it was vital to host the match to give some “much needed cheer” to the community.

“It’s an exciting day – this is the very first county match in Yorkshire for Walking Cricket and it is so important to me,” said Mac, of Castle Close, Monk Bretton.

“We’ve made it a social event and a bit of come and see what walking cricket is all about.

“There’s a lot of people who have struggled throughout coronavirus and we are all very concerned about the social isolation and mental wellbeing of older people.

“This is an opportunity to just relax a bit, let people let their hair down and enjoy themselves and it’s a social event.

“It’s where people can meet with friends, have a cuppa and sometimes a cuppa and a natter is more important than the cricket itself.”

For the future Mac and the Yorkshire Cricket Foundation want to expand the programme, which has been backed by captain of the England Cricket team Joe Root and legendary umpire Dickie Bird, with more teams and participants across the county, while talks are ongoing over a Yorkshire-wide league.

Mac said: “I love the inclusivity – it’s for everyone.

“It’s a brilliant activity to give gentle exercise to people and get them out and about and just enjoying themselves in the outside air.”

Norah Hoult, 81, a player for the Barnsley u3a Walking Cricket team since 2019, who was a spectator yesterday and helped with the tea, added: “Walking Cricket has been an absolute god send.

“We’ve got a great set of people and they are all in the same predicament – we can put our hands up to catch and we all wear glasses and the ball goes flying past, but hey have a laugh – having a laugh is what we do.”

Norah, who has lived on her own for more than 20 years, added Walking Cricket, had been a “life-line” during the pandemic.

She said: “It’s been frightening I’ve got friends who have not been able to move in the pandemic.

“When we came out of it and had the first session – we had a full house, and if you had seen those faces because they had been locked up for 18 months, not been able to do much – they were all their smiling.

“They are a lovely group and Walking Cricket brings people together.”

“This is truly a sport for all, because we engage new participants, with zero experience right through to ex-cricketers. – Kendal, the Participation Manager for the Yorkshire Cricket Foundation.

Kendal James, the Participation Manager for the Yorkshire Cricket Foundation, added an aim is also to see Walking Cricket become ‘socially prescribed’ by the NHS across the county.

This would see the activity recommended and signposted to patients, visiting their local GPs, to help improve their health, wellbeing and social welfare.

Kendal said: “This is truly a sport for all, because we engage new participants, with zero experience right through to ex-cricketers.

“Moving forward we would love to see this engage more and more people and ideally a social prescribing avenue for people to get involved.”

If you are interested in finding out more about Walking Cricket groups near you, or you are interested in finding out about sponsoring opportunities for the foundation programme, please contact Kendal James, the Participation Manager for the Yorkshire Cricket Foundation, on E: kendal.james@yorkshirecricketfoundation.com.

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