For two young fans, England’s European Team Championships match in Crawley turned into a very special experience as they ended up playing doubles with Paul Drinkhall and Sam Walker.

Zachary Culverwell, 14, and 10-year-old Nathanael joined the stars on the show court, cheered on by hundreds of supporters, after the England match against Serbia was cut short by injury.

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So as not to disappoint the fans, Drinkhall and Walker played and exhibition match and then teamed up with the youngsters, who were selected an random when they caught balls hit into the crowd by the England players.

Both boys play locally and showed some tremendous skills in the one-game challenge, which was won by Paul and Zachary.

Zachary is from Limpsfield in Surrey and plays in the National Cadet and National Junior League. He said the experience had inspired him to one day represent England himself.

Zachary added: “I’d never been to see a live international match and it was inspirational to see it. When I caught the ball, I was thinking ‘it’s me, it’s actually me!’ I was very excited to play alongside Paul because he’s an idol of mine.

“I was happy but quite nervous with so many people watching and I think I missed a few shots because of that. But Paul was so kind and encouraging.

“It would be very cool to wear the England shirt one day. I’ll see where life takes me, but that would be awesome.”

Nathanael said: “It was a great experience, and I was buzzing afterwards. I thought I was too nervous to go up in front of everyone but the players made me feel relaxed and the crowd was super encouraging.” 

Both young players took away a bat signed by the England squad, along with some inspiring memories. The England squad then spent time signing autographs and posing for selfies with the squad.

Zachary in action alongside Paul Drinkhall
Nathanael meets Paul Drinkhall and Sam Walker
Tom Jarvis meets fans after the match
David McBeath signs an autograph