CHELTENHAM’S James Schofield has gone into the history books after powering England to their very first victory in the Deaf Ashes!
The 36-year-old all-rounder produced a man-of-the-match display to help the tourists take an unbeatable lead in a closely fought series Down Under.
And it was all done with a certain amount of style, off-spinner Schofield following up a spell of 4-37 – which included two wickets in his first three balls – with an unbeaten 63, including a slog sweep for six over midwicket to seal an eight-wicket win.
This triumph put England 5-2 up in the eight-match series and meant that Australia lost hold of the Ashes they have held for all 31 years since these two sides first met.
It was the stuff of dreams for Schofield who had to sit out the first five matches of the series after testing positive for covid a day after landing.
He said: “I was stuck in my hotel room for the first five T20s watching the live stream, it was stressful to say the least! Four of those five matches were very close, but we had a 3-2 advantage and then won the first of the ODIs, which I played in after testing negative, to make it 4-2 so there was plenty riding on the next game.”
Schofield, who is Cheltenham’s second team captain, certainly played his part with the ball as Australia were dismissed for just 129 only for the hosts to come roaring back, reducing their opponents to 8-2 in the fourth over.
And the Denmark Road High School physics teacher with responsibility for girls extra curricular cricket then came up with the goods with the bat, sharing a crucial unbeaten century stand with Umesh Valjee.
He said: “At that stage our prime objective was not to get out, see off the new ball and take away any hope the Aussies had. They had made our previous run chases very difficult so that was a very important part of our approach.
“We got to a stage where we could start working the ball around, and at 50-2 could relax a little. After that, we were able to accelerate quite rapidly and in the end won with plenty of overs to spare.”
And the winning six? “I actually hit three sixes though the Cheltenham lads will have a hard time believing that as I’m sure they would say that one would be unlikely!
“We needed four to win and the spinner put the ball in the right spot for me to get down on one knee and put it away … it was a lovely moment in lots of ways.
“I’ll always be the player that hit the winning runs to lift the Ashes, but it was very special to be batting and seeing it through with Umesh … I opened with him in the one Test match I’ve played, and he has also played in every series since that first one 31 years which the Aussies won to hold the Ashes for all that time.”
Schofield, who was extremely grateful to Denmark Road for granting him leave during term time, was born with hearing problems and wears two aids.
He said: “In each ear I have about half the level of hearing that an ordinary person would have. Fortunately it never caused me to struggle at school or with sport.”
He did not know there was an England Deaf XI until a chance conversation with a cricket team-mate while studying at Birmingham University.
And Schofield, who has also represented his country as a high jumper in the Deaflympics, is keen to raise awareness so that any cricketer with hearing issues can enjoy the same opportunities that he has had since making his debut back in 2011.
He added: “The ECB have been absolutely brilliant in their support for all the various pathways and deserve a lot of credit for the way in which we are backed, on and off the pitch.”
As for the future, Schofield hopes that there may still be chances to top being the man who won the Ashes.
He said: “I’ve never played in a World Cup and apparently there are tentative plans for one sometime in the next 18 months. That would be a thrill to play in.
“Also, I’ve never scored an international hundred … the closest I’ve got so far is 95 against South Africa. And the chance to play in a home Ashes series would be fantastic … they’ve all been away so far.”
First, though, there are other priorities. “I’ve got a lot of exam marking to catch up on!”