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Table-topping stars are just champion at Lord's.

CRICKET IT may have taken 15 years but Birmingham pupils can now call themselves national table cricket champions once again after Wilson Stuart School marched to victory at the home of cricket.

They were one of nine schools to compete in the Nursery Pavilion, at Lord's Cricket Ground, for the right to call themselves national champions - eventually coming out on top after going unbeaten in the group stage and defeating Ulverston Victoria High School in the final.

The event, which was made possible thanks to the support of players of the People's Postcode Lottery and Ford, is now in its 19th year and, working with 30 county cricket boards across the UK, more than 300 schools took part in the 10 regional heats to qualify for the finals.

Wilson Stuart last won the title in 2002, but team captain Shaun Brittle never doubted they were capable of replicating their previous success.

"It feels amazing, really good to have won," said the 19-year-old. "I believed in our team and that's all I needed to do. We're capable of doing it, and we did, so it's great.

"I'm really proud of my team-mates, I couldn't have asked for a better team. I knew we had it in us, it was just about us all being confident and believing in ourselves.

"I've been playing for three years and Lord's Taverners and table cricket has helped me build relationships with new people, build friendships, and improve my teamwork." Played on a table tennis table with side panels and sliding fielders, a ball launcher, weighted plastic ball and wooden bat, table cricket enables young people with severe physical and learning disabilities to enjoy cricket and represent their school on a competitive basis.

The game not only provides opportunities for competitive play and social integration, it also improves life skills including self-confidence, independence and social skills.

And for Neil Dawson, head of PE at the school, the title was just reward for his side's efforts over the past two years. "I'm massively proud, it was something we were trying to do last year, but came up short, so this year we came back to finish the job and did it," he said.

"It was a massive job but they held their nerve and won under pressure when it counted.

"Hopefully next year we will be able to bring some new players into the team, and give them the experience the team have had this year."

Watching on as the school competed at Lord's was Radio 1 DJ, cricket lover and member of Lord's Taverners, Greg James.

"I've never seen table cricket before on this sort of scale and it's been brilliant," he said.

"I've seen it in videos and heard all about it, but to see hundreds of kids from all over the country in one place, just enjoying it and having a day playing cricket at Lord's, it doesn't really get any better than that."

| The Lord's Taverners is the UK's leading youth cricket and disability sports charity whose aim is to give disadvantaged and disabled young people a sporting chance - go to www.lordstaverners.org to find out more.

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Publication:Birmingham Mail (England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jun 21, 2017
Words:525
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