LA street kids take a stance on cricket (20 May 1997)

Tuesday 20 May 1997

LA street kids take a stance on cricket

Steve Bunce sees transatlantic ties forged as London homeless pass Test

IT WAS the game that nobody believed would take place. The setting was the Lensbury Club, by the Thames at Teddington. In one team, a group of homeless men from the streets of London and in the other a group of schoolchildren from Los Angeles.

When the last ball was bowled last night at 7.16 the homeless men scraped a monumental victory by just two runs but the drama was not over. The Americans needed just two runs and, according to them and my own scorepad, there was one ball left.

A good-natured but heated debate took place to decide whether the two batsmen and the team of 11 fielders, all wearing street clothes, would return for just one ball. After five minutes` debate, everybody agreed to leave the ground and head for the barbecue.

It was the first game of a two-week tour by the odd group of players from the Watts Compton and Willowbrook area of Los Angeles and they looked magnificent in their clothing which, incidentally, was bought for them by a Daily Telegraph reader after their proposed tour ran into financial problems last month.

The final score after 22 overs was 88 for nine, with the Americans managing just 86 for seven. There were heroes in both teams. For the homeless outfit, assembled by Sgt Adrian Whyte, from the Charing Cross Homeless Unit, and Fazal Mahmood, from the London Connection day centre, Leon, from Essex, an impish 16-year-old who is living in a short-term hostel, scored 24 runs and took two wickets. The delight on his face was wonderful to watch.

It is hard to pick a special player from the touring side. Some of the boys started playing cricket in January, but yesterday they all performed with great skill.

In the end, it was their search for perfection and correct approach that led to an initial slow run-rate, which proved too much to overcome. However, they tried, and with 10 overs gone, three of their big-hitters were sent in. They all hit fours and were then immediately clean bowled.

The Homeless London squad had several bowlers who produced a variety of odd deliveries but there was no lack of pace. One of the bowlers, Craig from Glasgow, was taken off after the first two balls of his over, when both deliveries passed six feet above the batsman`s head without bouncing.

Ted Hayes, the Homeless Activist from Los Angeles who organised the tour and taught the LA children how to play, was out for four as he attempted a boundary from a full toss by "Scouse" - none of the Homeless London team provided their full name, few even used their real name.

Later today, Hayes and his team of teenagers will play Hambledon`s youth team in a match they appear to have no chance of winning. "We will learn from our mistakes, grow stronger from our defeats and in the end we will triumph," said Hayes.

Six months ago, Hayes took his one set of pads and his two broken bats to a school in South Central. He offered cricket three times each week after school. Yesterday, the product of his efforts was marvellous to watch.

Source :: The Electronic Telegraph (