Greater Manchester children are being bowled over by a charity cricket programme that delivers on its pledge to use the sport to turn around young lives.

Wicketz, a Lord’s Taverners project using cricket as a tool for change, launched its thriving Manchester hub in November 2017 and it has grown rapidly since then.

Launching in Gorton, it has since expanded to work with young people in Old Trafford and the Little Hulton area of Salford.

As project lead, Howard Shore has used his role as Senior Cricket Project Activator for Lancashire CCC to help give kids at the Old Trafford hub the chance to watch the stars.

“We sometimes go into the stands for a few minutes when the county are playing and show them how the best in the business go about it,” said the Development Officer.  

“My job is to try to make sure children we work with get the best opportunities they can from cricket – not just from playing, but also life skills, social skills and leadership opportunities.

“There has been a real diminishing of the game in Gorton and there aren’t any strong clubs there any more, so we’re trying to play a role in building it back up.

“Old Trafford is a diverse community with a great passion for cricket that we’re trying to harness, and there isn’t much in the way of local services in Little Hulton.

“The Wicketz programme is based around cricket but also personal and social development – the children can grasp this, rather than just hanging around on the streets.”

The programme aims to establish community cricket clubs in hard-to-reach, deprived areas where opportunities to play sport are lower than the national average.

As part of Wicketz, kids from the north-west spent three unforgettable days at the programme’s national festival at Repton School from August 6-8.

The event brought together Wicketz participants from across the UK, with the Manchester contingent thrown into teams alongside youngsters from Tower Hamlets and Luton.

Using the Derbyshire school’s world-class facilities, the 8 to 16-year-olds were put through their paces by Macclesfield-born, former England and Lancashire coach Peter Moores.

Shore, chairman and player at Old Mancunians AFC in Fallowfield, was inspired to start the scheme after visiting the 2017 summer festival at Felsted School in Essex.

“The children really enjoyed their time at Repton – for some of them it’s the first time they’ve ever been away from their parents for a night,” he said.

“It’s a little bit daunting for them but they really tried to get the most they could out of it, make new friends and learn about their own strengths and weaknesses.

“They got some expert fielding drills from Peter, with high energy and high intensity.

“They can take all this back to the kids who weren’t able to attend, to push on and progress their cricket further.”

Derbyshire all-rounder Luis Reece – formerly of the Red Rose – was also on hand to share his expertise with bat and ball and enthused by the energy of the young participants.

“Everyone should have the opportunity the game we love and this programme offers that to kids who might not otherwise get the chance,” he said.

“They are talented kids who all came down with a smile on their face and asked me lots of questions, which is very rewarding to see.”

Using cricket as a tool for change, Wicketz is aimed at hard-to-reach youngsters aged 8-16 within areas of high deprivation across the UK, by engaging young people who live in communities where there are few opportunities to play the game regularly.