MO London - In 1971 Alan Shepard played golf on the moon. In 2007 Clay Anderson played American Football on the International Space Station. And now, in 2014, a cricket ball has joined the the exclusive club of sporting objects that have been sent to space - or at least to the edge of it.

The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) sent the cricket ball to the edge of space for what they claim is the first time. It was a stunt for the start of a competition that starts today called the NatWest T20 Blast competition. This sees 18 counties from England Wales compete in an 11-week season of cricket.

To perform the feat the ECB worked with a team of aeronautical engineers to launch the official match ball from Edgbaston Stadium, Birmingham.

The ball reached a peak altitude of 110,000 feet (33,000 metres), about three times the height at which a commercial airplane cruises. It was attached to a helium balloon in order to ascend and endured temperatures of -54°C (-130°F).

At peak height the balloon popped, sending the ball plummeting to Earth at up to 500 miles (800 kilometres) per hour before a parachute deployed to bring it safely back to the planet in Newbury, Berkshire in near-perfect condition.

‘Ahead of the launch of the NatWest T20 Blast season, we wanted to do something that would reflect the competition’s exciting brand of cricket and vibrant in-ground atmosphere,’ said David Collier, ECB Chief Executive, in a statement.

‘By sending a cricket ball to the edge of space, we’ve come up with an innovative idea which vividly illustrates our own plans to make this summer’s NatWest T20 Blast competition a truly memorable experience for cricket fans everywhere.’