A second innings for England and Wales Transplant cricketers

The England and Wales Transplant Cricket Club will return to action in Neath this weekend as they aim to provide a ‘second innings’ for people through cricket.

The team is a representative side made up of players who have received lifesaving and life-changing transplants. This Sunday they will play Briton Ferry Steel, whose captain is also a transplant recipient, in south Wales.

Any cricketer over the age of 16 who has received an organ, tissue, stem cell or bone marrow transplant is welcome to join the team, as well as those awaiting a transplant and dialysis patients.

“We are pushing the message of a ‘second innings’”, says captain Adam Phillips, who has been involved with the club since 2011, first representing the side against Australia in a two-day ‘Test match.’

Last year the team returned to the field for the first time since 2019 due to the pandemic, playing three fixtures including one against a team of employees from NHS Blood and Transplant.

“My transplant surgeon was their opening bowler,” said Phillips. “He did my second transplant in 2012 and then did another minor op of mine in 2020. Him being there was quite a special occasion for me.

“He got pumped around a bit by me and everyone else, but we won’t talk about that!”

The club not only gives transplant recipients the opportunity to enjoy cricket together, it also plays the important role of promoting the importance of organ, stem cell, and tissue donation.

Last year’s fixture against NHS Blood and Transplant was record-breaking in terms of people signing up to be donors, with the following week’s sign-up rate increasing by 98%. This was thanks in part to the media coverage the match received.

The coverage also helped the club grow as one player read about the news in the local paper and wanted to join the team.

“He messaged Jo [Jo Windrage, England and Wales Transplant Cricket Club’s manager] on the Monday and was playing for us on the Saturday,” said Phillips. “He's one of our good news stories so to speak.”

For many players, the team also acts as an important support network for life post-transplant.

“I found out I had kidney disease when I was 19,” said Lewis Daniels.

I was at university and it was a quick process from there. From diagnosis to transplant, it was about 15 months. My transplant was July, 2019, not long after I'd been diagnosed.

“In the summer of 2018 I was at nets one night and I play with several people who play in the Yorkshire disability team and they said that they had played a game against England and Wales transplant cricket.

“I was very early on in my experience with kidney disease, but I said that might be a future for me. 18 months later I was training with the England transplant team.”

England and Wales Transplant Cricket is funded through donations, sponsorship and fundraising, with this year’s kit being funded by TV and radio presenter Debbie McGee, who just so happens to be Lewis Daniels’ grandmother.

The club not only benefits the players themselves, but also their families, friends, and partners, widening their support network and community as a result.

“Although all the stories are different, we all share the same experiences along the journey of transplantation and the club gives me the chance to feel part of this community,” said one partner’s testimonial.

“The club has also provided me with the opportunity to see my partner back playing a sport he loves proving what an amazing gift transplantation can be.”

The club play a lot of their matches against their own players’ club sides, but in the past have held fixtures against county disability D40 teams such as Yorkshire, Hampshire, and Wales.

As it stands, there aren’t a great deal of international opportunities within transplant cricket.

England and Wales Transplant Cricket have a rivalry with their Australian counterparts, Transplant Cricket Lucky Stars, having played them in four series since 2004, most recently in 2017 when Australia toured England.

They compete for the David Hookes Memorial Shield in memory of the former Australian Test batter who became a symbol for donation following his tragic early death and donation of his own organs.

“To my knowledge it's just Cricket Australia,” Phillips said on other international transplant sides.

“Even if we had a European kind of contingent, that would be quite nice. I suspect there is something in the Netherlands, they have quite a cricketing forte there.”

“Having some sort of World Cup would be great,” Daniels added.

“If there were a few other nations that had teams we could get together. There’s a transplant football World Cup this year, if we could have the equivalent of that, that'd be wonderful.”

Later this summer the team will face NHS Blood and Transplant for a second year running, this time at Moseley Cricket Club in Solihull. The game, on September 22, will align with Organ Donation Week, which is held between September 23 and 29.

If you would like to get in touch with England and Wales Transplant Cricket, you can via:

Facebook: EnglandTransplantCricket

Instagram: eandw_transplant_cricket

X (Twitter): etransplantc