Young refugee cricketers take on the MCC

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24 May 2016

Our Parliamentary Manager, Jon Featonby, writes about his change of scenery as he swaps the Houses of Parliament for a cricket pitch to watch the Refugee Cricket Project in action against the MCC.

Those of us who get to work for the Refugee Council feel pretty privileged and proud to do so and there are days when that is particularly true. For me, last Thursday was one of those days.

Escaping from our office, I headed down to South London for an afternoon of cricket as the Refugee Cricket Project took on the MCC. The Refugee Cricket Project have taken on the MCC a few times in the past and it’s a match that is always keenly anticipated. The MCC, founded in 1787, is the guardian of the laws of cricket, and plays more than 500 matches around the world each year.

The Refugee Cricket Project was set up by the Refugee Council and Cricket for Change to offer advice, support and a sporting outlet for children who have sought asylum by themselves.

The Project began in 2009 and has helped well over 100 boys. Many had never played with a proper cricket ball or pads before joining the team.

As well as offering the chance to play cricket with other young people in similar circumstances, the Refugee Cricket Project boosts the young people’s confidence and also helps integrate them into British life.

As I arrived at the ground, the Refugee Cricket Project side, consisting of teenage boys mostly from Afghanistan, were being put through their fielding paces by their coach Dan and their excitement was clear to see.

A strong MCC team batted first under slightly cloudy skies, and found the going tough earlier on. Some impressive bowling kept the MCC opening batsmen alert, but despite some very enthusiastic appeals the Refugee Cricket Project was unable to pick up an early wicket.

After doing my bit of “work” for the day by taking the drinks out to the middle, I settled down with the scorers to watch the battle between bat and ball continue. When the players came in for lunch – a delicious curry cooked by the boys from the Refugee Cricket Project – the MCC had scored over 100 runs for the loss of just two wickets.

Going back out to bat after their lunch break, the MCC batsmen scored some quick runs before declaring, setting the Refugee Cricket Project the tough task of scoring 228 to win.

The Refugee Cricket Project started their innings with a bang, as a huge six sailed over the fence and into one of the neighbouring gardens. After a bit of a delay, a replacement ball was found and the game continued.

The Refugee Cricket Project kept scoring runs at a pace, but wickets were also falling as the MCC fielders held some impressive catches. The young refugee team found themselves in a bit of trouble after they lost their sixth wicket with just 74 runs on the board, still 153 runs behind.

Then followed an admirable fight back. The MCC bowlers were being hit to all corners of the ground as the Refugee Cricket Project passed the 100 run mark – one particularly powerful blow sending the spectators scattering to get out of the way.

Some quick scoring then brought the Refugee Cricket Project back into contention, including an impressive seventh wicket partnership of 50 runs from 32 balls. The MCC captain needed an inspired bowling change to make the break through. A few wickets later and the Refugee Cricket Project were all out for 169, the MCC winning an entertaining match.

As the players shook hands, and thanked the umpires, all could reflect on an enjoyable afternoon of cricket.

We are currently looking for a volunteer to help  with the running of the Refugee Cricket Project. For more information and to apply, please click here.

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