England star Maia Bouchier visited the MCC Foundation hub in Leyton as part of a nationwide programme which is helping bring cricket to record numbers of state school children.

Bouchier, an MCC Foundation Ambassador, took part in a cricket session with players from the Leyton boys’ and girls’ hubs to launch the start of this year’s MCC Foundation National Hubs competition.

It will see hub teams across the country, including Leyton, battle it out for the chance to play at Lord’s on the main ground later this summer.

She said: “It’s great to see a big increase in young people participating in the programme, especially the number of girls taking part.

“We’re seeing a huge growth and interest in the women’s game with England playing in front of sell-out crowds and competitions like The Hundred.

“More and more girls are getting into cricket which is great, but we’ve got to make sure the opportunities are there for girls from all backgrounds to have a chance to play the game and potentially progress through the talent pathway.

“It’s brilliant to see so many get these opportunities through the MCC Foundation Hubs programme.”

A number of the new hubs are focused in urban areas like Leyton where access and opportunities to play cricket have traditionally been limited.

The programme links players to the talent pathway by working with coaches from each of the 18 counties across England and Wales.

Over 20,000 young people have taken part in the programme since 2012, but a recent £1 million injection of funding over two years from MCC and ECB has seen 49 new hubs created across the country this winter including hubs in Aberdeen, Huddersfield and Plymouth bringing the total number of hubs to 126 and increasing overall participation by 1,500.

Dr Sarah Fane, a director at the MCC Foundation, added: “We are already seeing the huge impact the investment from MCC and ECB is having on giving more young people from state school backgrounds the opportunity to access and play cricket and the chance to develop into the talent pathway.

“Nowhere is this more evident than in Leyton where the number of young people taking part has doubled over the last year and the relationship with Essex has seen young players develop into their talent pathway.”

In total, 188 players accessed the talent pathway from the programme in 2023, including Anjali from Leyton who has now progressed into the Essex County Age Group Pathway, been selected for England under-17’s Action Indoor Cricket team and recently returned to the Leyton Hub to be part of the coaching team.

It is hoped a further 24 hubs will be created next year as the programme looks to grow even further.

The MCC Foundation National Hub Competition gets underway next month with both the boys and girls finals taking place at Lord’s on Saturday July 20.