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Blog: Middlesex pushing boundaries on and off the field

The sight and sounds of thousands of kids – from 55 schools and 17 different boroughs – playing cricket on the Nursery Ground and hollering their delight from the stands illuminated cricket’s HQ.

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Blog: Middlesex pushing boundaries on and off the field

Middlesex captain Stevie Eskinazi meets students in the stands at Lord's

Middlesex Cricket have had a week to remember on and off the field.

The highlight, for anyone fortunate enough to be at Lord’s on Thursday, was the joyous pandemonium of 2,000 school children in attendance for the opening day of their LV= Insurance County Championship match against Leicestershire.

The sight and sounds of thousands of kids – from 55 schools and all 17 boroughs in the county – playing cricket on the Nursery Ground and hollering their delight from the stands as boom new recruit Shaheen Shah Afridi showcased his world-class quality illuminated cricket’s HQ.

Afridi had the previous week helped Middlesex to their first win of the season against Glamorgan – winning his own high-profile battle with men’s Test number one batter Marnus Labuschagne - and the Pakistan quick was at one stage on a hat-trick which was greeted with screeches of delight from young fans enjoying a day to remember.

Somewhere in between all of that the national media and their camera crews were busying themselves with a first opportunity to speak to new England Men’s Performance Director, Rob Key.

But they could hardly be noticed as the energy of the schoolchildren took over Lord’s in the same week Middlesex opened a new state-of-the-art cricket centre at a high school in Ealing that will provide the next generation with a facility to pick up a bat and ball and develop a love for the game.

The Wilf Slack Cricket Centre, named after the late Middlesex legend, was officially opened at the William Perkin CofE High School on Tuesday night.

In the words of former England captain Mike Gatting it is a facility that Slack, who had a passion for developing young players, would be “so proud” to have associated with his name given the benefits it will provide to students and the diverse local community.

Former England seamer Saj Mahmood, who is the Head of Cricket at the school, believes the Greenford centre is the equal of any facility at any school across the country, boasting  four indoor lanes, video technology and analysis, bowling machines, a coaching suite, gym facilities, and plenty more besides.

The project has been funded by the England and Wales Cricket Board, Sport England and the Wilf Slack Young Cricketers Development Trust and will provide more opportunities for members of the local community, local recreational clubs, local schools, Middlesex Cricket’s Women and Girls squads, Disability squads, and Middlesex’s Participation Team.

The vision of Wilf’s sister, Phyllis Slack, cutting the ribbon to open the centre on Tuesday evening represented the culmination of a seven-year vision to open up cricket to more people in the area and provide the high school’s students with a world-class cricket offer.

It also showcased the value of strong partnerships across the cricket network spearheaded by Keir Smith, the former Head Teacher of William Perkins who is now at Ada Lovelace CofE High School, and Katie Berry, Director of Participation, Middlesex Cricket with support from the ECB.

Here’s what some of the key players in the partnership have said:

 Keir Smith - Former Head Teacher of William Perkin 

“We had support from the ECB and we wanted cricket to be alive in state schools and we wanted to create a hub for cricket in the community.

"With the support of Middlesex the school has had Saj Mahmood as the head of cricket. He has a passion for opening up access for children to elite-level coaching. Saj has set up an elite A-level cricket academy, which allows the children to benefit from the academic success of the school with their A-level learning taking place in the morning and then that allows him to have his concerted time with them to develop their cricket skills.

“That is an offer we believe will rival the coaching that students who are given bursaries to attend the wonderful public schools.

"We’re also running lots of primary school cricket and access opportunities. We’re opening it up to all of the local clubs, Middlesex are running free access to women who are interested in learning more about the game to open it up to the community there. All of the wonderful cricket clubs in Ealing will be able to use it as well.”

 Saj Mahmood – Former England seamer and Head of Cricket at William Perkin

“The facilities are amazing. It’s going to have a huge impact on the players that we have here. Not just the players but also the students who will be able to come in and be curious about this new facility. I think we’ll be able to engage more kids to be interested in cricket.

“It would have definitely accelerated my development as a player but the community. The partnership that we have with Middlesex Cricket now is amazing, the interest for the local community and young cricketers coming through is a fantastic thing.”

Katie Berry - Director of Participation, Middlesex Cricket

“It is a cricket-specific centre with brand new flooring, netting, fantastic lighting and the massive addition of state-of-the-art cameras which will transform the way we help people develop as well as how we can identify talent moving forward.

“The whole partnership has been a great example of how partnerships work. From the start the ECB has been incredibly supportive. When we shared our vision of what we could do to open up the facility for the community and to use the space to amplify opportunities for under-represented groups, especially women and girls and people with a disability they were completely in from the start.

“The technical support we’ve had from people like Dan Musson and Iain James has been phenomenal.”

Mike Gatting - Middlesex Board and former England captain

“[Wilf] was one of the loveliest people you will ever meet. I remember when he first came in he was very quiet, but he had one of those very infectious smiles. He was one of those characters that didn’t have any problems with anybody.

“He would be so proud to have something like this there so the kids can have a chance like he did. He was very aware of the background that he came from and he would be so proud that kids from all races, colour and creed can go in there and use the facilities with his name above the door. He was a special person.”

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