The charitable side of ... The England Cricket Team

Mathew Little

Walking seems to be the fundraising method of choice among England's cricketers.

Historically, the England cricket team has been the nation's forgotten overseas aid agency, donating Test matches on an annual basis to beneficiaries from Australasia, southern Asia and the Caribbean. But the current incumbents seem to have lost the giving habit and, fresh from a record run of eight successive Test victories last year, they will start the first Test against Australia tomorrow contemplating the possibility of seizing the Ashes for the first time in 18 years.

English cricket's resident charity the Lord's Taverners owes its beginnings to one of the Test team's formative dire performances. Unable to watch any longer as England slid to a 326-run defeat to the West Indies at Lord's in 1950, a group of actors led by John Mills and Jack Hawkins adjourned to a local pub and decided to set up a charity to support cricket's grassroots.

Since then, the stripy blazers of the Taverners have become something of a beacon for the stars of light entertainment.

The Taverners give away £2m a year, split between projects to support young cricketers and to help disabled children and those with special needs. England's middle-order bludgeon Andrew 'Freddy' Flintoff is president of the Young Lord's Taverners.

Ian Botham's famous traversing of the country to raise money for leukaemia research set the pattern for English cricket's preferred fundraising technique - walking. Since June, a group of Taverners has been taking part in a 12,000-mile Ashes Walk. The fundraising marathon ends on Thursday morning when the Taverners reach Lord's, where they will present a coin to Michael Vaughan and Ricky Ponting for the toss that will decide who bats first in the 2005 Ashes series.

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