Cricket United Day was a day in which the resilience that cricket values so much was on show, through the displays of several of the players, but most of all in the highlighting of the work done by the charities that make up Cricket United – Chance to Shine, the PCA Benevolent Fund, and the Lord’s Taverners – all of whom are changing lives through cricket.
The work the charities do shone through the three beneficiaries of the day: Elsa Barnfather, captaining her school team having been introduced to cricket by Chance to Shine, Sam Alderson, living with TAR syndrome, playing cricket from his knees and with a shortened bat with the help of Lord’s Taverners, and Brian Rose, receiving life-changing dental implants after rheumatoid arthritis caused his teeth to fall out.
They all took full part, receiving Cricket United caps in a special presentation, talking to the world via BBC Test Match Special interviews, and forming part of the guard of honour before the start of play. The pre-match formalities also saw all players involved in the game, South African and English, don Cricket United caps, put aside partisan loyalties, and pose for a team-style photo.
When play begun, there was more resilience on show. For South Africa there was Vernon Philander, hospitalised yesterday having been ill all game, returning first to bat, and then to trouble England with the ball in trademark fashion.
For England there was Keaton Jennings, battling poor form, questions over his place in the side, and some probing bowling to register his highest score in the series.
And there was the crowd, handling a rainy, stop-start, and eventually curtailed day with good-humour, seeing the misfortune as an opportunity to join the fundraising efforts and take part in some cricket of their own, under cover behind the stands.
England’s players had earlier donned Cricket-United-embroidered shirts as they attempted to end South Africa’s innings as quickly as possible,and though, through the grit of Temba Bavuma, the Proteas avoided the follow-on mark, England finished the innings well ahead of the game,with debutant Toby Roland-Jones taking the final wicket to register a five-wicket haul with his first-ever bowl in Test cricket.
Roland-Jones’ shirt, and the shirts of all the England players are being auctioned here, with all proceeds being split between the three charities.
Cricket United Day would not have been such a success without the generosity of many, to whom we are very thankful. Sky and BBC Test Match Special donned bespoke blazers and ties made sure to mention and discuss the charities, and the doodles done by the players, which were auctioned on Sunday.
Many volunteers gave their time, braving the weather to rattle donation buckets and sell Cricket United merchandise. And so many fans present took them up on the offer, parting ways with what change they had, or taking home a Cricket United Cap or mini-bat as a souvenir.
If you would like to donate, you can do so online here, or by texting ‘CRICKET’ to 70123 to give £5.