BLOG: “In such a short space of time, you could see they were captured by the game”

On Sunday 13th August, the ECB, in collaboration with Northamptonshire County Cricket Club, Northamptonshire County Cricket Board and the ACE programme, hosted an African-Caribbean Cricket Festival to help celebrate and support the Black community within the game. The day was a real celebration of African-Caribbean culture, with live music, dancing and traditional West Indian food. Pioneering heroes of African-Caribbean cricket attended as two matches took place; a Legend’s game between David ‘Syd’ Lawrence XI and Norman Cowans XI, as well as a match between the ACE Programme Academy and the Antigua and Barbuda U19s. Reflecting on the day, former England cricketer and Glamorgan and Welsh Fire coach Mark Alleyne talks about the importance of such events and creating opportunities for the community to connect.

I’m a badger, I love cricket. So, to see a day dedicated to African-Caribbean cricket was brilliant. Two great games took place, but for me it’s the bits in between the matches that captures the imagination. Enthused young kids embracing the game and people reconnecting over cricket. It’s fantastic.   

To get the kids involved right away, we set up a quick game and in traditional school playground style, the two teams were picked. What I loved most was that it wasn’t boys picking boys and girls picking girls – there was no

inhibition. It was one group of kids, irrespective of gender, just cracking on with it.  

Kids from the ACE Programme taking part in the day

My favourite moment was seeing two young boys, brothers, who hadn’t played cricket before saying they wanted to play. We did some catching and bowling which looked promising and three hours later they were still playing. In such a short space of time – you could see they were captured by the game.  

That’s the magic moment. It happened to me – I didn’t want to stop throwing a ball around when I was young and I’d love to see in five years’ time if those two boys continue playing. That was what the day was about – it was about capturing people that might have been at home, not doing much, that have decided to come out and enjoy cricket. 


As someone who grew up in Barbados between the ages of four and 15, I had that passion for the game. It was in the blood. It was at the pomp of West Indies cricket and I fed off that. When I came back to the UK, people would say “You played cricket in the West Indies, wow!” and I felt like I brought gravitas into the game here.  

That has been lost a bit. The West Indies team isn’t performing as well and African-Caribbean cricket has probably struggled as a result.  

ACE Academy alongside two legends XIs took part in the cricket festival at Northamptonshire County Cricket Club

Mark is hoping that events like this are a steppingstone for better engagement with the community – even if the legends playing aren’t quite what they once were. 

Syd [David Lawrence] and Norman [Cowans] were both in good nick, surprisingly! The most important thing is that former players are still so enthused by the game and want to pass down their love to future generations. That’s the role I feel I play within the game – have a presence and connect with young players to give them an incentive to play cricket. That’s what got me indulging in the game, sneaking out of school to watch my heroes in real life. 

And you could see that passion and energy from the ACE Academy and Antigua and Barbuda U19s who played a game afterwards. As a coach, I’m always looking for how up for the game they are, how much they’re enjoying it and it was great to see young players with such energy. 

Antigua and Barbuda U19s played against ACE Academy at the African-Caribean Cricket Festival

The day also saw scores of kids from the ACE programme taking part in cricket, something Mark is particularly passionate about. 

The ACE programme provides a really good platform for Black kids to get involved in cricket at a fundamental level to take the game forward. The next step is to continue to expand the network and give cricket more exposure to the Black community in more places across the country – it’s a crucial link to the professional game. The key is to sustain the work and I hope I can offer some help in doing this.    

My biggest hope is for the Black community is to regenerate the interest – not just the players but the parents and families. That’s the group that will help keep the game alive and keep the youngsters interested. This isn’t a short-term fix – it needs to be a sustainable growth. When opportunities happen for the kids in the setup now, you can believe that the amateur game will benefit and the community will feel more connected to the game. We need more African-Caribbean players and hopefully in time we’ll see this.  

To get involved in the ACE Programme, visit For more information on how the African-Caribbean community can get support though cricket, visit