The spiritual home of amateur football last week hosted its first cricket match in 15 years, between the Metropolitan Police and a team of youths from the surrounding neighbourhoods.
The 20-over game was held to mark the opening of seven new artificial wickets on Hackney Marshes, the East London playing fields famous for their sprawl of Sunday league football pitches.
The police side lost the toss and were put in to bat, to be bowled out for 104. The youth side then romped to victory, winning by three wickets with three overs to spare thanks to a man of the match performance from 17-year-old Niall Carroll, who made 34 to go with his two wickets in the first innings.
Presenting a trophy to the winning team, Hackney Councillor Jonathan McShane said: “It’s wonderful to see cricket back on the Marshes for the first time in over 15 years.”
To go with the seven new artificial wickets, a multi-million pound joint investment by Hackney Council, the ECB and Middlesex Cricket Board will provide three turf squares on the Marshes by next summer. A new cricket pavilion is due to be completed by 2013.
Last week’s match was part of the StreetChance cricket initiative in London. Jointly organised by The Cricket Foundation, Barclays Spaces for Sports, Cricket for Change, the Metropolitan Police Service and Positive Futures, StreetChance matches are played with a tapeball in any space big enough to swing a bat. Innings last just 20 balls and the games are organised by StreetChance apprentices such as Jaffer Baloch, who captained the youth side on Hackney Marshes.
The 17-year-old skipper said: “I was never in a gang or anything, but I used to spend time hanging around the estate with troublemakers. There would have been a risk of getting into trouble because there was nothing better to do.
“Now I’ve moved away from the bad influences and like to practise bowling at a set of stumps in the hard court when I have some spare time.”