The Northern Echo has launched a competition to give youngsters in the region the chance to follow in the footsteps of some of their cricketing heroes.

We have teamed up with Durham County Cricket Club to organise a knockout tournament for under-15 teams from schools throughout the region.

The final will be the centrepiece of a festival of schools cricket to be staged at Durham's Riverside ground in Chester-le-Street on July 11. The winning school will win £300 to be spent on sports equipment, with the runner-up, earning £200.

This gives children the chance to play on the same ground as Durham, English cricket's newest first-class county. The same ground which has hosted World Cup matches, and which last year hosted games in the tri-nation challenge between England, West Indies and Zimbabwe.

And the same ground which this summer will play host to a one-day international between Australia and Pakistan, in a repeat of the 1999 World Cup Final.

The Northern Echo has played a key role in developing youth cricket in the region since the birth of Durham as a first-class county.

Today our region has a very pro-active and flourishing cricket development programme, which is the envy of many parts of the country.

A competition to find the best schools cricket team in the region will bolster efforts to get cricket played by as many children as possible.

Peter Barron, editor of The Northern Echo, is delighted to see the launch of the Under-15s competition.

"For years cricket appeared to be in decline. It was played less often in schools, and fewer children were being introduced to cricket as part of the curriculum.

"Thankfully, the situation is changing. Cricket is in resurgence. It is being played at schools in increasing numbers.

"The England team is enjoying a great run at the minute, and the future prospects for our national summer game have not been as bright for a generation.

"It would be terrific if we could unearth an England Test star of the future."