Middleton’s match is a milestone for club

Both teams line up before the historic cricket match at Middleton Sports Club
Both teams line up before the historic cricket match at Middleton Sports Club

Middleton held their first county disability cricket match as Sussex and Hertfordshire teams marked the opening of new user-friendly facilities.

Hertfordshire batted first and scored a very credible 142. Sussex were going well at 98 for four but after excellent bowling and catching, they fell 20 runs short.

It was a joy to watch, with about 100 spectators treated to a game played in the perfect spirit. The jubilation when a wicket went down was an event in itself – every player descending on the bowler to give high fives and a slap on the back.

The relief when a catch was taken – including one superb take by the wicketkeeper diving from his wheelchair – and the support from all when one was dropped was probably the most telling factor in a game brilliant to witness.

Matthew Hansford, Middleton’s cricket chairman, said: “It was fantastic to watch – there is so much many of our club cricketers could learn from these talented players. Every league in the country would benefit from seeing how they behave and conduct themselves.

“They made sure every single player, no matter how well or badly they did, enjoyed every single minute, surely what cricket is all about. In the future we hope to see many more matches like this and start our own disability cricket section. It was so good to see and I am sure it’s the way forward for a club that wants to include everyone.”

The game was made possible by all the hard work Middleton Sports Club have put in to make their complex more accessible and inclusive.

Over the past two years they have been supported by Veolia and West Sussex County Council Short Breaks team and spent more than £100,000 providing better access, permanent ramps, automatic doors, disabled toilets and more.

Middleton have been holding inclusive sports days, disabled cricket matches and wheelchair tennis. Later this year they intend to start a table cricket section and will be the first club in the country to do so.

Next year, with the help of Sussex CCC, Middleton will have coaches available to help anyone with a disability learn about the game.

There’s a golf day on August 29 – including guest speaker amd cricket legend John Barclay – to raise funds for table cricket equipment – contact matthew@extracover.org.uk for more.