Henley Cricketers Play Highest Game of Cricket on Helvellyn

A team from Henley played England’s highest game of cricket (950m) on top of Helvellyn on Monday against a Helvellyn XI in aid of Charcot-Marie-Tooth (CMT) Research Foundation.

The game was supporting player John Neville who has played cricket at Henley Cricket Club since he was youngster and went on to captain the 3rd Team before he was diagnosed with CMT, a heredity form of muscular dystrophy in 2004.  He said, “My Granddad had it.  It affects the nervous central system and means that my body cannot deliver nerve pulses below the elbow and knee and the muscles therefore waste away.  I have to wear leg braces to keep my feet in position and I have problems with dexterity in my hands making it difficult to use a knife, pen, doing up shoe laces etc.”

The idea for the cricket match was John’s friend Nick Johnson and his Dad Chris who was their cricket coach when they were young. They thought about holding the cricket match at a famous ground but then Chris who is a keen mountaineer came up with Helvellyn as he had seen helicopters land on the flat piece of ground at the top.  John said, “I thought they were completely barking mad when they suggested it then just really snowballed. We had various conversations with Wisden, the ECB and MCC about the record and they couldn’t find anything higher played in England.”

Because the ground at the top of Helvellyn is undulating and very mossy, the players needed to take up a pitch to play on which weighed 19 stone.  The plastic pitch was very kindly donated by a Flicx and came in three parts.

After walking up in glorious sunshine, they reached the top and it was shrouded in cloud.  John commented, “When we set off we thought it couldn’t be any better. When we got the top we were panting and sweating.  Although it was cloudy at the top it added to the feeling we were up in the sky.”

The 20/20 over game ended in a draw after Henley XI made 145 for 8 and The Helvellyn XI (made up of teams from the Lake District) 145 for 6, needing 3 to win off the last over but only got 2!

John said, “It was an amazing feeling to have done this amazing match but what we hadn’t factored in was getting all the stuff back down after everyone was exhausted.  Luckily one of the Lake District players had brought up some mountain rescue stretchers which we ended up using to take the heavy pitch back down with 2 guys on each end of the stretchers.  So grateful to the Lake District team, they were really brilliant.  We took up about 20 balls and we only lost one, we were conscious of not wanting to leave any trace so we set the pitch so that the balls wouldn’t go over the cliff edge. We think the lost ball must have gone down a rabbit hole as we just couldn’t find it.”

John’s friend Adam Lubbock who played said, “John is a very dear friend.  We met through playing cricket and I was delighted to be invited as to play with such a close net of friends.  I couldn’t think of anything to do more for money for a better cause.  It was too wholesome to even think about turning down.  I think if I’ve known how steep it was beforehand, I might have thought twice.  Going up was difficult but going down was even more so.  It was a sensational game of cricket and very enjoyable.  We were hoping for super over.  It was a very special and slightly surreal thing to do.”

The match has raised £14K so far.  John said, “It’s just remarkable. I can’t believe everyone’s generosity and support for something I live with everyday.  Thanks to my core group of friends who have meant so much to me and to their friends and families who have also donated.  Every penny is funding clinical research and trials to find a cure.  Originally I had a target of £1-2,000 and then everyone said aim higher so we raised it to £10,000.”

Chelsea Layton, from CMT Research Foundation charity said to John, “What you have done for the CMT community and to support research is remarkable.”

If you would like to support this cause you can by going to  www.justgiving.com/page/highestcricketmatch

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