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Broken bin fails to stump state team

Young cricketers defeat more privileged opponents on their way to Headingley final. Stephen Lucas reports

Pupils at Christ Church middle school polish their cricketing skills using a broken litter bin for a wicket... on the school's tennis court.

The boys at Millfield prep bat and bowl all year round on the school's indoor and outdoor cricket pitches. So it was not a great surprise that the private-school team from Glastonbury, Somerset, beat the Staffordshire state school in the under-13s David English Bunbury cup on Saturday.

But not before Christ Church, Stone, had trounced four other private schools including Manchester Grammar, between May and July to break through to the final heat.

Playing in the final at Headingley, Yorkshire's home ground in Leeds, proved too much for Christ Church. The school, where LEA per-pupil funding is pound;2,815 a year, lost by 10 wickets to Millfield prep, where annual fees are pound;15,180 for boarders and pound;10,245 for day pupils.

Chris Waghorn, headteacher of Christ Church, said: "The team became overwhelmed when they found themselves standing on the wicket that they had been watching on television.

"They did not play anything like the way they are capable of. If Millfield invited us to play at their school we would go. We will take them on without the razzamatazz."

Christ Church is the second state school to get through to the final in the cup's eight-year history. Last year John Taylor high school in Burton-on-Trent got through but also lost.

As well as practising on their concrete tennis court twice a week, Christ Church has use of the grounds at local cricket clubs Oulton, Barlaston, Moddershall, Stone and Little Stoke.

David English, the former manager of the Bee Gees pop group, sponsored the Bunbury cup this year, and pledged to buy Christ Church a pound;1,500 pair of cricket nets.

He said: "If the kids from Christ Church can get to Headingley practising with a litter bin for stumps, think how far they could go with nets."

Ken Lake, a former state secondary teacher and general secretary of the English Schools Cricket Association, which organises the competition, said:

"I would like to see more state schools getting through to the final.

People have a perception that cricket is played only in independent schools, and this shows it is not."

The school has played three away matches costing pound;300 each time, and two home games at Oulton cricket ground, costing pound;100 each. New cricket whites for Headingley cost pound;200.

Mr Waghorn said: "Being in this competition has stretched the school's finances. There is an inequity of funding and opportunities. We had a couple of dads doing warm-up exercises with the boys, whereas Millfield had a cricket coach, a cricket manager and a head of cricket."

Chris Twort, 58, head of cricket at Millfield prep, said: "Christ Church were only the second state school to get through to the final in eight years. They had done well to beat Manchester grammar in the semi-finals."

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