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West Indies great Lara helps raise over £50,000 for Rwanda

TWO'S COMPANY: Brian Lara (left) with cricket fan Dee Jarvis

OVER £50,000 was raised on September 14 as a team of cricket stars came together under the leadership of West Indies legend Brian Lara, one of the greatest batsmen the game has ever seen.

The Lara XI, playing in the colours of Rwanda, included Ashes winning former England captain Andrew Strauss, Matthew Hoggard and England women's vice-captain Heather Knight. They reached a total of 218 for 7 before the Warwickshire all stars responded with 189.

The game came to a dramatic conclusion as 11 year-old Oxfordshire boy Dee Jarvis, a substitute bowler who was plucked from the crowd by Matthew Hoggard, took a hat-trick in the penultimate over, a performance which won him the coveted Man of the Match award.

The game which took place at the picturesque Wormsley Cricket Ground on the Getty Family Estate in Buckinghamshire, raised funds for the Rwanda Cricket Stadium Foundation (RCSF), a charity established to build an international cricket stadium in the Rwandan capital Kigali.

Lara is a patron of the charity, and feels a strong link with Rwanda as 1994 brought a stark contrast between ‘the best of times and the worst of times’. While Lara was enjoying his greatest year Rwanda was suffering its worst ever period, the genocide in which one million Rwandans died.

Twenty years later, Rwandan cricket is one example of the country’s incredible recovery from that conflict. Many Rwandans who were exiled to neighbouring countries returned with a love for the game and in 2004 a national cricket team made its debut. However, there still isn’t a single first class standard pitch in the entire country. As a result, most of the funds for Rwandan cricket are swallowed by the costs for the team to travel abroad to games.

The RCSF was set up to solve this problem by raising funds to design and build an international standard stadium, with the aim of it being ready for play by September 2015, and sustainable for the long term. The stadium will form the focal point for the ongoing development of both the men’s and women’s game in Rwanda, which is already burgeoning despite the lack of facilities.

Lara said: “It’s been a great day and it’s great to see so much support for the project. There’s a huge the enthusiasm for the game in Rwanda, and it’s vital that we support the Rwandan Cricket Association in harnessing the huge talent available.

"The last 20 years have seen the country make huge strides and sport can play a key part in building on that progress. When complete, the stadium and facilities, along with the local supporters, will help to create a lasting legacy for the game in this wonderful country.”

Ed Pearson, Director, Rwanda Cricket Stadium Foundation (RCSF) said: “Thanks to all those that came along today, we’ve made a huge step towards reaching our fundraising goal. The amount of support that we’ve had has been overwhelming and we look forward to seeing everyone at further events.”

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