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State schools open on a new wicket

Labour-run councils in the Edinburgh area have opened a fresh challenge to the city's independent schools by pitting their best young cricketers against the traditional stronghold of the game. A team from four secondaries launched a series of fixtures by beating Edinburgh Academy.

The rivalry between the state and independent sectors has intensified with the political battle over Labour's plans to scrap the assisted places scheme, which injects several million pounds into independent schools in the capital.

Iain Kennedy, Team Sport Scotland cricket co-ordinator, said: "There are not enough boys to make up individual school teams in the state sector and we have reached an all-time low in terms of cricket fixtures."

Mr Kennedy said the team was playing under the banner of Lothian Schools and had been brought together under Peter Steindl, the area part-time cricket co-ordinator.

Meanwhile, the Scottish Cricket Union is hoping to capitalise on the country's surprise qualification for both the Cricket World Cup and Commonwealth Games by initiating an under-15 Scottish cup to enthuse young players. Mr Kennedy hoped a regional competition would begin in summer 1998. The limited overs format is likely to take place after school, but the SCU would like the finals to be held at a central venue over a weekend.

Mr Kennedy believes cricket will receive a fillip over the next two years from the success of the national team, not least in the extra cash coming the way of the SCU. State schools' cricket is a likely beneficiary. "There are lots of alternatives to cricket on a Saturday but we want to try to change people's thinking," Mr Kennedy stated.

A well established under-15 league, incorporating 16 schools, is already setting the pattern in the Glasgow area while Mr Kennedy would like to develop a winter eight-a-side schools indoor circuit. Glasgow Schools League for the first time last season put out a select side to take part in the Fettes cricket festival in Edinburgh.

Andrew Teiger, schools' secretary, said: "A lot of schools don't have the facilities and it helps if there is a teacher who happens to have links with a club. But we are quite proud of what we have managed to achieve. No other area has a good schools set-up."

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