A BASINGSTOKE school has had new cricket nets installed as part of an initiative aiming to get more young people to play the game.

Brighton Hill Community School in Basingstoke unveiled new nets this week at a launch event attended by former England cricketer Shaun Udal.

The nets are part of the Hawks Academy initiative, which is a pioneering project run by the Hampshire Cricket Foundation which aims to nurture talent in some of the county's most economically disadvantaged communities.

It provides opportunities for young people who would otherwise not have access to top-level coaching and cricket facilities, specifically those living in urban areas where, traditionally, participation in the sport is low.

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Following the expansion of Basingstoke Hawks Academy and the installation of the new net facility, sessions will take place every Monday at Brighton Hill, with 16 players currently involved.

The talent identification process for the academy is ongoing across schools, competitions, and community-based Street Cricket programme, which provides free cricket all year round for boys and girls aged 9 to 15.

Former England and Hampshire cricketer Shaun Udal praised the importance of giving young people access to the sport.

He said: “It’s the lifeblood of the future of English cricket. The more young people that are playing, the more opportunity they get to come and practice their skills.

“The coaching is very important. When you’ve got good coaches, like we’ve got here at Hampshire, it is a special thing to be involved in, they help you perform at your peak and most importantly enjoy the game.”

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Charlie Freeston, head of player development at The Ageas Bowl said: “It’s been a brilliant team effort, with so many people involved in this project to get it underway.

“It’s a great day for cricket in Hampshire, it’s fantastic to see it. There are four different schools represented from Basingstoke in the first session.”

Basingstoke Hawks Academy has been part-funded by Persimmon Homes Thames Valley, through the housebuilder’s Community Champions scheme, which has now donated more than £1.5m to sporting clubs and charities in the last two years.

To learn more about the Hampshire Cricket Foundation, based at The Ageas Bowl, please visit ageasbowl.com/foundation.