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February 10, 2014
The Chance to Shine programme, aimed at increasing opportunities for schoolchildren to play cricket, has reached a significant landmark, with one million girls having benefited from the scheme since its inception in 2005.
Run by the Cricket Foundation charity and involving several members of the England women's team as coaches, Chance to Shine has been increasingly active in spreading the game to state schools, where cricket is less frequently taught. Lillie Edwards, 12, from Cromer Academy in Norfolk, has become the 1,000,000th girl to take part in a Chance to Shine session.
"It's important that girls play cricket as girls can do anything that boys can do," she said. "It's important that boys and everyone else remembers that!"
With the England women's team ever more visible, winning back-to-back Ashes series in the last six months, 46% of participants in 2013 were girls. When the boys are included, more than two million children in 9000-plus state schools have played competitive cricket through Chance to Shine in the last eight years.
Charlotte Edwards, England's captain, is one of six players employed as ambassadors - Lydia Greenway, Danielle Hazell, Jenny Gunn, Heather Knight and Susie Rowe are the others. Edwards called the milestone a "fantastic achievement", adding: "We're proud to be a part of the campaign and hope to inspire many more girls to take up the game."
Clare Connor, the ECB's head of women's cricket, said: "For one million girls to have had the opportunity to play cricket since the inception of Chance to Shine eight years ago is a remarkable achievement.
"It is fitting that we are able to celebrate this milestone just a few days after the return of our back to back Ashes-winning England women's team. Many of them have played an inspirational role in the scheme's success through their coaching work with girls in schools up and down the country. We should all be so proud of them as a team and as role models who are helping change the face of our sport for girls in this country."
Wasim Khan, chief executive of the Cricket Foundation, added: "It's sad to think that for the majority of girls, cricket just wasn't an option for them at school or their local club less than 10 years ago. We're starting to change that and have seen how girls have embraced the sport. More needs to be done to get girls on an equal footing as boys and we'll continue our efforts, with ECB, until every state school provides their girls with the opportunity to play, enjoy and learn through cricket."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.