Last year’s Disability Premier League runners-up Pirates will look to go one step further this year against the Hawks – but the final is about more than cricket.
The Hawks and Pirates are not just battling each other but battling to be seen by a world that often makes disabled people feel invisible.
This T20 tournament is a symbol of equality, providing a platform that simultaneously allows disabled cricketers to showcase entertaining, elite cricket and offers a clear pathway to progress.
The DPL has had a direct impact on player recruitment across the country and at the top level. In 2022, eight players were spotted and selected to work with their impairment-specific national squads.
It is crucial to combat the ableist stereotypes and assumptions that reinforce negative perceptions of disability and create inspirational role models for the many disabled cricket lovers who have grown up without one.
The four teams – Black Cats, Pirates, Tridents and Hawks – have demonstrated that cricket is for all.
Three thrilling weekends of cricket have culminated in an unmissable final, live on Sky Sports on Wednesday (1pm start) at The Incora County Ground in Derby.
How does it work?
The competition is the first in the world to feature squads of 16 players with roughly six from each of the three disability groups (Physical Disability (PD), Learning Disability (LD), and Deaf (Deaf or Hearing Impaired) competing together on the pitch. They are also tiered to ensure each team is as evenly balanced as possible.
The format, entering its second year, sees each team playing two games per weekend with a minimum of four overs bowled by one PD, LD and Deaf player.
Look out for the ‘explosion over’ added this year which allows the batting side to enforce powerplay rules any time between the sixth and 20th overs.
Players to watch out for in the final
After losing to reigning champions Tridents last year, the Pirates have successfully fought their way back to their second final. But this time they face new opponents, the Hawks who have won five out of six matches in the competition.
Here’s who may help their sides take the DPL trophy home…
Hawks’ Callum Flynn: From opening the batting for the England Physical Disability team at the age of 16 to winning the inaugural World Cup title in 2015, and now captaining England PD, Flynn is a true legend of the game.
As a bone cancer survivor who fundraises alongside his cricket, the Hawks all-rounder sits second in the highest run scorers out of the final two teams, with a total of 162 and and best innings 62 not out from 36 balls. He’s also incredibly handy as a right-arm seamer with best figures of 3-14.
Hawks’ Owen Morris: The up-and-coming all-rounder made a memorable captaincy debut for the Yorkshire D40 development side earlier this year, with an accomplished knock of 75 not out.
While he’s had little chance to shine with the bat in the competition so far, he has excelled with the ball. The off-spinner is the leading wicket-taker with 10 and has the potential to represent England one day.
Pirates’ Brendon Parr: The Devon-bred batter is a new addition to the DPL, following appearances for England PD in friendlies this year after impressing in county league cricket.
Parr has emerged as one of the top batters in the tournament boasting the third-highest run total of the competition (192), which included 59 not out off 40 balls against the Black Cats.
Pirates’ Monty McKenzie: McKenzie is a Trident turned Pirate and product of Hampshire cricket who hopes to play for England one day. After taking a wicket in Trident’s DPL final-winning performance in 2022, he will be looking to add a second DPL title to his name.
His off-spin has proven vital to the Pirates’ campaign – nine wickets and competition-best figures of 3-11.
How do players get involved?
Players are selected by team coaches in the draft made up of international cricketers and talent ID’d domestic cricketers. The DPL sits in the middle of the disability cricket pathway.
Players start in one of the 51 teams competing in the county championship competitions, such as the D40 QUEST and D40 PURSUIT. They can progress to the DPL, and finally to the England international program, where England compete against countries such as Australia, India, and Pakistan.
What does the future hold for the competition?
The ECB wants the DPL to be the most diverse competition in the world, which also includes employing the most diverse staff behind the scenes.
Other ambitions include the first steps to professional contracts (of which there are currently none in disability cricket), expansion of the existing DPL, and creation of a women’s and visually impaired DPL. They are seeking more support from the International Cricket Council
Funding-wise, the amount going into disability cricket is growing. In partnership with the Lord’s Taverners, their Super1’s programme has funded a Disability Development Officer in all 39 county cricket boards which has helped introduce increasing numbers of disabled people into cricket.
The final promises elite, entertaining cricket, unseen talent and captivating storylines but it’s important to remember why it means more than just cricket for the players and lovers of disabled cricket cricket. You don’t want to miss out.
Watch the Disability Premier League final live on Sky Sports Cricket on Wednesday. Coverage begins at 12.25pm.