Andrew Edwards: Loving Cricket with Autism
Richie Benaud photograph was taken after the close of the third day's play of the Third Ashes Test at Old Trafford, Saturday 13th August 2005©Andrew Edwards
Richie Benaud photograph was taken after the close of the third day's play of the Third Ashes Test at Old Trafford, Saturday 13th August 2005
My love of Cricket began during the Summer of 1991. When my mother, Hazel Davies, parked her six year old autistic son in front of the television screen at a difficult time in her life, little did she know that this one action would help her autistic son for the rest of his life.
I was captivated by the commentaries of Richie Benaud on BBC as Graham Gooch’s England greatly overachieved to level the five Test Series 2-2 against the all conquering West Indies.
The first match I attended was at Aigburth, Liverpool on Wednesday 18th June 1997. This was for a Championship match between my beloved Lancashire and the eventual County Champions, Glamorgan.
Growing up in the 1990’s and the geographical closeness easily linking in with my love of Manchester United, music and the One Day successes, Lancashire were always going to be my county.
Although, growing up in North East Wales, I always seemed to be only person who loved Cricket, this changed when I started to work at Manchester United Television in 2002 at age seventeen. I also found mates and companions to go to matches at Old Trafford.
In fact in August 2007, when a new employee joined Manchester United Television, I found probably the best mate I have ever had. We bonded immediately over all forms of Cricket, as well as everything else. His name is Michael Shaw. He is always there for me whenever I need him and he is one of my closest confidants. All this blossomed from County Cricket chat.
In June 2004, I bought a membership of Lancashire at age 19. Over the next eleven years, I enjoyed following the Red Rose so much and took great pleasure when we won the Championship outright for the first time in 77 years in 2011. I ran up my road shouting my head off when it was finally confirmed.
During this time following Lancashire and England Tests at Old Trafford, I met just about every Cricketing hero I could imagine. Andrew Flintoff once sponsored me £10 for a run I undertook for my Special school in Wrexham. He also used to recognise me. He even remembered my name once before a quarter-final match against Sussex in the 2005 Friends Provident Trophy.
Andrew Flintoff photograph was taken in a suite in the second tier of the Old Trafford pavilion on Sunday 17th April 2005
I also have amusing anecdotes of singing “Tellin’ Stories” by The Charlatans with Graeme Swann during the rain affected 50 over match against Nottinghamshire in May 2006.
In 2012, along with my nephew Louis Beckley we went to our first Lord's Test against South Africa.To mark the occasion, I took in a cake for the Test Match Special, which was gratefully accepted, especially by Michael Vaughan, and was mentioned on air during commentary whilst being invited into the box.
Michael Vaughan with the cake we took to the Third Day of the Third Test between England and South Africa
After leaving Manchester United Television in April 2014, I have volunteered, amongst other places, at a Heritage Trust in my hometown of Wrexham. My boss and mate Gary Brown and my sister Melanie Beckley encouraged me to write a book on the History of Brymbo’s Football and Cricket clubs, which statistically sold more copies than fifty percent of books ever published.
I decided that I would give playing a try for a team that usually didn’t have a full allotment of players. I wanted to feature most weeks and not be worried about being left out
After perusing they scorecards of the North Wales Cricket League during the 2017 season, I contacted Mr Skinner, Chirk Cricket Club Seconds Captain, as they were one of two teams in Wrexham short of a full eleven.
We met up in February 2018 in Wrexham. I could clearly see that we had a shared ethos regarding cricket. I had also researched Chirk and found that they had had experience of autism at the club. So, that was my decision made.
I made my debut on a very warm Second Bank Holiday Monday of May in 2018 at home to Ruthin Seconds.
Graeme Swann photograph was taken at the Manchester Dancehouse on Friday 27th October 2017
We batted first rattling up a score well in excess of 200 in our allotted 40 overs. Being me, I chatted amiably to those on the sides introducing myself by showing the books that I have written, including my 2015 memoir entitled Ive Got A Stat for You- My Life with Autism, whilst openly talking about being autistic. I never believe that it should be hidden as it creates issues later on for all concerned.
When we fielded, after an inauspicious start where I dropped a catch, I made amends by taking what others have deemed memorable. I will never forget the batter’s name was Venkatravaghan Sundaram.
Upon taking the catch, I ran around like a mad person a la Imran Tahir. Everyone seemed chuffed for me. Although I realise how much until months later.
In my second match, I took the wicket of Richie Samuels of Marchwiel & Wrexham Seconds. I had never got anyone out in my entire life, even my nephew Louis Beckley when he was six in the front garden!
After four appearances in the 2018 season, we held our annual presentation in February 2019. Clearly, my catch of Venkatravaghan Sundaram wasn't forgotten as I won a trophy for Champagne Moment of the season.
I couldn't believe how much everyone at the club had recognised me for being me, autism or not. I am still so proud of this trophy. It makes me emotional just writing and thinking about it.
Andrew Edwards holding the trophy from Chirk Cricket Club’s Presentation Evening in February 2019.
In 2019, I made ten appearances for Chirk Seconds, as the club moved into the Shropshire League, taking five wickets @20. I even rather unexpectedly opened the bowling in our last match. We also won promotion in our first season in the League.
I really appreciate the support of all my team-mates and everyone associated with Chirk Cricket Club, especially my captain Ian Skinner. He has completely gone out of his way to make me welcome and a well respected part of the club whilst also having my role within the team very clearly communicated to me. The latter is very important for anyone, especially someone with autism
I greatly felt lost due to the Coronavirus Pandemic at the beginning as I couldn't process that the Cricket season wasn't beginning as usual. It was especially confusing with the lovely weather that we experienced last Spring.
What helped was being in contact with my team mates. I joined the club Group Chat and we had a Zoom Quiz every Saturday evening. This was great fun and I was always buzzing afterwards.
Fortunately though, after clearance from the Welsh Government in the last round of Lockdown easing, our season in the Shropshire Cricket League Borders Division started on 25th July at home at The AAA Holyhead Road against Pontesbury Seconds.
Just before being picked up for the belated first match of the 2020 season against Pontesbury Seconds, Saturday 25th July 2020.”
Myself just before being picked up for the belated first match of the 2020 season against Pontesbury Seconds, Saturday 25th July 2020
Although there was a few adjustments that were made, I loved every second of the day as I never thought that it would happen a couple of months ago. It was like all my Christmases had arrived at once. We won by 49 runs and I bowled three of the last five overs of the match
Author, nonprofit public speaker, volunteer (ex-Manchester United Television Statistician)