THE Olympic Torch, a celebrity Twenty20 match and a mini tornado provided an unusual backdrop to the 2012 Brit Insurance National Cricket Day in Cheshire.

Cheshire Cricket Board's dedicated team of Development and Coaching Officers were out in full force on May 22 to support a raft of exciting activities for the fifth annual running of the Chance to Shine-backed event.

At Birkenhead Park on the Wirral, secondary school pupils got into the Olympic Spirit as they played a Kwik Cricket event alongside hundreds of supporters waiting to catch a glimpse of the Torch Relay.

Prenton Girls School triumphed over four of their near neighbours to win both the Under 13 and Under 15 tournaments on a day when five other Kwik Cricket events took place across the peninsula. Development and Coaching Officer Owen Williamson hailed National Cricket Day a 'great success' with all Wirral-based Chance to Shine schools taking part. "It was a brilliant day, helped by some fantastic weather," said Owen.

"Cricket is not an Olympic Sport, but we certainly raised the profile by playing the girls tournament in the shadow of the Torch Relay.

"There was a great atmosphere inside the park and it was a really good experience for all those who took part.

He added: "We also hosted several other competitions to support National Cricket Day and already we're making plans to do something bigger and better next year."

In Warrington, Lymm Oughtrington Park Cricket Club played host to a Twenty20 match featuring a team of television and sporting celebrities, including Peter Reid, Stuart Law and Phil Middlemiss.

The match was preceded by a Kwik Cricket event comprising Chance to Shine schools Ravenbank, Cherry Tree and Oughtrington Primaries , with commentary from Wire FM's Pete Pinnington.

Cheshire Performance Manager Bob Milne, the Board's Development and Coaching Officer for Warrington and Chester, was in attendance.

"The club had organised the event to mark the official opening of their new net facilities," explained Bob.

"It was a nice idea to hold the Chance to Shine Kwik Cricket event before the celebrity T20, to give the children a chance to play in a special atmosphere.

"Chance to Shine is all about creating competitive opportunities for children, and this was certainly a day they won't forget in a hurry."

In the south of the county in Alsager, Crewe & Nantwich, and Congleton Development Officer Stewart Macleod had a hair-raising experience at Pikemere Primary School.

Playing a game of Diamond Cricket with his year four class, the game was temporarily suspended after a freak whirlwind struck the school playing field.

Stewart explained: "We were in the middle of the game when one young boy shouted out 'there's a tornado over there by the trees'.

"At first I thought he was just kidding and as the game was in mid-flow, we carried on regardless. "Within 30 seconds we could feel the wind start to get up. It was really swirling around and all the kids ended up in the middle of the diamond area, with grass whizzing past our ears.

"Sure enough, for about 10 seconds, the mini tornado had arrived! After that we went back to playing the game!"

Things were a little more sedate, but exciting nonetheless over in Stockport, where Development and Coaching Officer Gavin Colebourn arranged a whole host of fun activities. Chance to Shine clubs Bredbury St Marks, Woodley and Marple each hosted activity days with local schools visiting their grounds to play a series of matches.

On the Saturday morning, Gavin hosted a Dads v Lads competition in an effort to bring more adults back to the game.

"The whole week was a big hit in Stockport, with many of the activities taking place on National Cricket Day itself," said Gavin. "The Dads v Lads offered something a bit different, and it gave some of the parents a chance to roll back the years and remember their school cricketing days.

"Chance to Shine definitely has a big profile in Stockport and it was great to see so many clubs, schools and volunteers supporting National Cricket Day."

There were more traditional events in Tameside, Macclesfield and Mid-Cheshire, with the area Kwik Cricket finals organised to coincide with National Cricket Day.

In Tameside, 17 schools participated in the borough finals held at Hyde Cricket Club and Mottram Cricket Club. The players, dressed in t-shirts supplied by Chance to Shine, were competing for a place at the Cheshire finals in Warrington.

Colin Grindey oversaw competitions at clubs in Macclesfield, Poynton, Mobberley and Alderley Edge, with the final contested at Macclesfield. Chance to Shine Schools who featured in the finals were Bexton, Upton Priory (two teams) and Nether Alderley, with Upton being the overall winners.

And in Vale Royal, Development and Coaching Officer Mark Greaves' (right) hard work finally bore fruit when the four tournaments he organised were each won by a Chance to Shine school.

NB - Chance to Shine launched National Cricket Day in 2008 to help raise awareness of the campaign and its aim to bring the educational benefits of cricket to two million children by 2015.