By Milly McEvoy
Gloucestershire’s Alfred the Gorilla climbed to the top step of the podium at Edgbaston as he claimed victory in the Vitality Blast Finals Day Mascot Race.
The Gloucestershire primate held off a late surge from Vinny the Viking from Yorkshire to claim his first win in five years, with all 24 mascots raising money for the Professional Cricketers’ Trust – the registered charity that supports members of the Professional Cricketers’ Association or their families when they are in need.
Fans were able to support their mascot by giving £5 in their name to the Trust, while also entering a raffle for tickets for Finals Day next year, with their donations helping to fund the vital work the charity does supporting cricketers with anything from mental health support to providing medical equipment.
In the baking heat, Alfred got off to a flying start, but none faster than Lanky the Giraffe for Lancashire, who had already spent hours out in the sun cheering his side to the final.
Having breezed through the ball pool, Lanky came unstuck in the net crawl while Alfred had to reclaim his head from the pool before overtaking Lanky.
Surrey’s Caesar the Lion and Stumpy the Dragon of Somerset were part of the chasing pack, with Vinny but none could keep up with the pace of Alfred who crossed the line well clear of the charging Viking.
Freddie the Falcon of Derbyshire sprinted rather than soared to third place and maintained his standing in the top three for the third successive year.
The mascots took part in the gruelling course to help raise funds for the Professional Cricketers’ Trust, who last year supported 106 individuals with mental health problems, taking the overall total since 2015 to 526.
The Professional Cricketers’ Trust provides vital support to past and present cricketers in England and Wales and their immediate families when in desperate need, with the charity operating a 24-hour confidential helpline.
Two of the players who have been supported by the Trust were in action on the day; Yorkshire’s Dom Bess, who received help for mental health issues, and Chris Wood, who was supported through counselling sessions for his gambling addiction, with Wood winning a first title since going public with his story.
Also at Finals Day was former Hampshire bowler David Griffiths who received financial and mental health support from the Trust when he donated a kidney to his sister in an act of life-saving generosity, with the 36-year-old interviewed on the big screen and on the BBC’s Test Match Special.
Also featured across Sky and the BBC was the mascot race, and with Edgbaston reaching close to 30 degrees, and the temperature in the suits even warmer, there was only one thing on Alfred’s mind after his victory.
“Very hot, very sweaty but it’s great,” the banana bread-loving animal said.
“To be fair, it was pretty hot, everyone did their best to finish it, my legs felt like jelly near the end, but it is a great feeling, glad to be back and glad to do it properly.”
For Vinny the Viking, the race was more about fame than glory.
Chris Mullock, who donned the costume for Yorkshire, said: “I actually had a penalty because of my feet [the Viking not encumbered by the heavy feet of other costumes], which was pretty annoying because I had to stay at the back. Pretty happy with second place.
“Personally, I just wanted as much screen time as possible, but it wasn’t that great because I started at the back.
“But my tactic was just to run as fast as I can. The costume’s not great for vision, but I just ran as fast as I could and came second.”
The Professional Cricketers’ Trust provides vital support to past and present cricketers in England and Wales and their immediate families when in desperate need. The charity’s work is all encompassing, whether it be for unforeseen physical or mental needs. Vitality Blast Finals Day is supporting the players’ charity - to find out more about the Professional Cricketers’ Trust, visit professionalcricketerstrust.org