Chris Edwards, five years old, was too hot to play football.
So the caretaker at Elleray Park school in New Brighton rummaged in a cupboard and produced a bat, a ball and some stumps.
The rest is history.
Now, 23 years later, Edwards has been awarded a British Empire Medal in the Queen’s Birthday Honours for his services to learning disability cricket.
It’s another in a long list of achievements, including county championship titles, playing a starring role in overseas victories for England’s learning disability XI and being named captain of his country at just 22.
And it all started because he was too hot to play football.
“I was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder at three years old, so I ended up going to a special school which met my needs,” he said.
“The caretaker, Keith Beggs, used to take the lunchtime activities, so he got the cricket set out - and I just found my gift for cricket from there.
“He showed me how to bowl overarm and bat as well.”
Aged eight, Edwards made his debut for the Cheshire disability side - he took 2/32 on debut, he recalls instantly - then went on to represent Cheshire’s mainstream U10s side.
In his teenage years, he helped Cheshire win the Disability County Championship four years on the trot, from 2007-2010.
National honours followed - Edwards was called up aged 15, and toured Australia in 2009 for a tri-series with the hosts and South Africa. He won two match awards in Melbourne, then went one better in 2011 with three awards as England won a series in South Africa.
“We had to wait four years for our next series against Australia,” added Edwards. “And that was my first as captain.
“It was a six-match series against Australia, and we won it 5-1.
“Then in 2017, we had a home tri-series in ODIs and T20s and we won both competitions.
“Most recently, in 2019, we were in Brisbane for the Inas Global Games - we beat Australia 5-0.”
It’s a CV which any cricketer would be proud to have for their whole career - let alone for someone who’s only 28, and struggles day-to-day with his condition.
He said: “If something’s not quite routine, or if there’s any sudden changes, it can affect me.
“It can be to do with the social side of things, if I go somewhere I’m not quite sure about, it can have an effect as well.
“There’s times where, for me personally, it’s more mild now - there’s other times when I’m like ‘woah, hang on a minute’.
“There’s good days and bad days.
“Cricket’s helped a lot. It helps with the social aspect, communicating with your teammates, and it helps with working solutions out in the heat of the moment.
“With ASD, sometimes the process of working something out is not as quick as with the average person - whereas in cricket you have to work something out, then something might happen in a game, and you have to change it quickly to be able to either defend or take wickets.”
Since 2009, Edwards has starred for the 1st XI at Caldy, who currently play in Division Two of the Love Lane Liverpool Competition.
An all-rounder who opens the batting, he’s scored nearly 5,000 runs, including 22 fifties and five centuries, and claimed 313 wickets at 18.45 with his medium pace (“getting slower by the year”), with 11 five-fors.
Caldy sit third in the Division Two table ahead of tomorrow’s trip to Hightown St Mary’s.
Edwards - whose clubmate Daniel Hamm bowls slow left-arm for England’s physical disability XI - described life at Caldy as “fantastic”, adding: “Everyone is so supportive of myself and the other players we have with a learning disability.
“David Brown, our chairman, has been inspirational to myself and Dan - he’s been one of the main drivers of giving opportunities, whether that’s to men, women, or players with disabilities.
“He’s been at the forefront of driving everyone at the club to improve and to push forward.”
Edwards is not alone in praising Brown, who was this week named the latest winner of the national Voneus Village Cup Club Legend award for his work in promoting grassroots cricket.
In a callback to the fortuitous beginning to Edwards’ life in cricket, Brown said: “We are inspiring a lifelong love and opportunity in cricket – that’s our approach to junior cricket at Caldy.
“We say to all of the junior coaches, every decision you make, whether it’s coaching, a bowling change, the batting order, has to be referenced back to ‘are we inspiring a lifelong love and opportunity in cricket?’
“We’re not bothered about results. So many juniors drop off at U15s nationally; it’s about keeping them engaged and enjoying themselves.”
Edwards is a perfect example of what can happen if kids are given a chance, and nurtured - and if people focus on what they can achieve, rather than what they can’t.
Neurodiversity in sport is a subject too big for these pages. Reaching the top in any pursuit requires hours of practice - there is a theory that the necessary level of focus might come more naturally to someone with ASD, if their condition isn’t severe enough to preclude them from playing high-level sports.
“A cricket ball is big, round and easy to look at,” Edwards explained. “Anything I played - whether it’s football, cricket, or just catching a ball - I was just able to focus on it.
“As soon as I tried to play badminton, I didn’t have a clue because the shuttlecock wasn’t round!
“And when you want to prove that you can do it, on some levels, it does make you work harder to achieve your goals.”
Covid has, of course, got in the way. Edwards recently led his England side in two T20s against the MCC at Bromsgrove - his first games for England in 20 months. After scoring a match-winning 54 off 26 balls in the second, he’s hoping for more opportunities to show what he can do.
He said: “It was great to get back out there in an England shirt.
“Pre-Covid, we’d play about five or six games a summer against strong opposition - slightly better than what we may come up against in international series - to challenge and push ourselves to perform the best we can when it comes to those tournaments.”
Edwards works for Cheshire cricket, delivering Chance To Shine sessions - it was just after finishing one that he got the call about his latest award.
“It came out of the blue,” he said. “I had a call from an unrecognised number and I thought ‘I’d better take this, it might be important…’
“The medal will be presented by the Lord Lieutenant in a local ceremony at a later date - and I’ll potentially get to go to a garden party at Buckingham Palace as well.
“I’m really chuffed.”