Intra-Plastics, 2020-10-10

35/35 game between the club members who went on tour to Portugal earlier in the season and those who stayed at home. Tourists 152 ao from 30.2 overs. Home Birds 153/6 from 29.4 overs.

The Plastics are the first team I umpired for back in May last year and I was planning on doing a few more for them this year, but events conspired against me. One match was cancelled because the opposition couldn’t book a pitch; one was cancelled because the pitch was double-booked; one I had to pull out of; and finally, this match went ahead.

The distinct lack of pitch markings
Markings? What markings

This late in the year it gets dark early so we started as early as possible, as soon as the various football training groups had left the field. The field was wet, and I’m glad we were playing on an astro-turf pitch, as the rest of the the strips across the square were unplayable. It was chilly, and plenty of fielders wore woolly hats and coats, much to the amusement, I am sure, of some of the occasional spectators who stopped to watch for a few minutes. The field is on a slope, with one end of the pitch lower than the other. Bowling up-hill was hard work, and bowling down-hill was rather bouncy. The markings on the pitch were very faint. There was no visible return crease at either end, the popping crease was just about visible from behind the stumps, but from square leg it couldn’t be seen at all. I did the bowler’s end throughout, and only one of my many temporary colleagues had to judge a run-out, which he said was clearly not-out.

There were many wides and no-balls, including for bowling off the strip several times, as all but one of the Home Birds had a go, one getting three no-balls in his over (but also a wicket, and no other runs, so it was almost a wicket-maiden). There were also several dropped catches, at least some of which can legitimately be put down to – as can some of the wayward bowling – everyone’s fingers being frozen, and also some misses in the field from, quite reasonably, not wanting to dive into cold muddy puddles. The Dukes ball used in the first innings held up well, but the Gray Nicolls ball used in the second innings developed a large ridge around the seam as the wet leather swelled up which just looked weird, both in the hand and when the ball was in flight. I reminded them that they could ask for a ball change, and we could have switched to the ball used in the first innings, but everyone was happy to continue. I expect that that helped it to swing a bit more than it would have otherwise but there wasn’t much unexpected seam movement and no very fast bowling where that might have mattered more. According to one of the players whose Sussex league uses Gray Nicolls balls this is a common problem – and one that I’ve not seen with the Dukes and Readers that are used in the matches I normally umpire.

Late in the Home Birds’ innings it got very dark, so much that if the Tourists had brought a fast bowler on I think I would have had to tell them no. When rain was added to the darkness I reluctantly took the players off. Thankfully it didn’t last long, and as the squall blew past the dark cloud went too and we finished with an even wetter field but in good light.

I was a bit rusty even though it was only a month since my previous game. I don’t think I made any terrible mistakes (although people were most miffed that I didn’t give an LBW that they were all sure was hitting leg stump; I wasn’t sure if it was just tickling the stump or just missing, so I couldn’t give it) but I found myself having to think harder than normal, at least at the start of the game.

It was an enjoyable, not very serious game to end a strange season on. I feel that I’ve improved as an umpire compared to last season. Still lots more to learn, of course, and I do hope that training courses are back on before next season starts.

Ashburnham vs East Dean, 2020-09-13

42/38 game with any unused overs from the first innings being added to the second. East Dean won the toss and fielded first. Ashburnham 157/9. East Dean 95ao from 26.4 overs.

That match format. Yes, it’s bizarre. But it’s what the captains agreed before the toss, as a compromise between a limited overs game and a timed game. It works around the problems of a slow last “hour” in a timed game, which is actually an hour or the time taken for 20 overs, whichever is longer – so in practice is always longer than an hour unless a team is bowled out. Given how late in the season we are and the problems fielders on the eastern side would have when the sun is low in the sky, I think it might be a sensible compromise no matter how odd. Alternatively they could just start an hour earlier, but perish the thought of getting up earlier on a Sunday!

This was the first of a few friendlies that I’m umpiring as the season winds down. Conditions were excellent – mostly sunny, without significant recent rain so the ground was firm and dry, and while it was warm it wasn’t too too hot. There was quite a lot of dry grass on the pitch, and since last season the fences along the east and west sides have been augmented with some finer mesh so that far fewer balls are lost into the neighbouring field or over the road. I was surprised however, that there were no sixes even though we were playing right on the eastern edge of the square with a very short boundary on that side. I was accompanied by player-umpires throughout. For the first 12 overs I did the bowler’s end duties as the two younger players I had with me during that spell were not confident about doing that, but after that things were back to normal. Normally I wouldn’t chop and change like that for the sake of consistency, but it was a friendly and the captains were happy with it, so I was too.

It was a tricky pitch to bat on, with a bit of turn off the surface (but not much swing), quite bouncy, with the odd ball staying really low. One stayed so low that I gave a no-ball for bouncing twice before it reached the other end during Ashburnham’s innings. The bounciness meant that plenty of balls which struck the batsmen were going to go over the stumps. In a league match I would have had to turn down plenty of appeals on those grounds, but here there was a refreshing honesty from both sides when fielding. Ashburnham’s opening pair put on a very good 80, with a highest score of 54 for the first man, but there was an absolutely catastrophic collapse later, going from 120/3 to 137/9 in 7 overs, with two men dismissed for 1 each and three for a duck. The last pair made what I thought would be an important 10 each, and there were also a helpful 18 extras, mostly wides.

I thought that the target of 158 was achievable provided nothing went terribly wrong – but it did. East Dean’s innings didn’t get off to a good start, with their opening batsman falling on the last ball of a wicket-maiden. The second over was a maiden too. I thought that the pitch was a bit more docile in the second innings, and despite Ashburnham not being able to find a hard new ball and so having to make do with a used one, the number of balls keeping low was actually less remarkable than previously. A couple of balls bounced unusually high as the bowlers found divots and rough spots. None of East Dean’s batsmen could stay long at the crease, with the best score being 39 off 34 balls but only two more getting over 10 runs, and wickets falling regularly. Ashburnham’s bowling was excellent, with the captain getting 5 for 24 off just 7.4 overs and the opening bowler, a 15 year old lad, got that opening wicket-maiden and while he ended up getting just that one wicket for 27 runs from his six over spell he was tantalisingly close to getting several more wickets – I look forward to seeing him in action again. There was also just one extra for the bowlers (a wide), although there were eight byes as well.

I thought I had a good game, although I had to make very few decisions. I gave two unusual no-balls – the double-bounce that I’ve already mentioned, and another where the bowler knocked the bails off during his delivery – but I’ve given them both before so they don’t count towards my collection. I also warned one of the bowlers that he was very close to a back foot no-ball, something that you don’t see very often and I had to briefly explain the law to him. Last season I might not have spotted that, but this season, having paid attention while watching rather more experienced umpires in action, I’ve been standing further back. While it does mean that I can see that sort of infraction better, the rather more important reasons for it are that I don’t have to change where I’m concentrating so much from the bowler’s landing spot (for the more common front foot no ball) to the batsman (for an LBW), and I also have a split second more to get out of the way if the batsman tries to take my head off. That said, if I think that a bowler is very close to a front foot infringement then I will stand further forward to get a better view of the crease.

Old Rutlishians vs Beddington 4th XI, 2020-09-05

40/40 game. Beddington won the toss and batted first. Beddington 98 ao from 35.2 overs. Old Rutlishians 99/5 from 31.2 overs – scorecard

This was the last match of the truncated league season and Beddington were duking it out with Sutton for bottom of the league, although there is no promotion and relegation this year. The conditions were excellent, with some cloud cover but intermittent sunshine, and a nice dry field. The wicket was rather green. My only concern about the ground came up during the second innings, when the bowler’s landing point at my end was getting rather eroded away, not helped by a batsman running his bat into it rather hard. Conditions didn’t deteriorate to the extent that I thought anything needed to be done, but if this had been a 50 over game – and had gone the distance – I think things would have been different. For the first time in a league match this season there was another umpire so I got a stand at square leg half the time, as the Cricket Gods intended. I’ve noted previously how, while I don’t mind being the only “full time” umpire and doing bowler’s end duties throughout, it is nice to have another umpire instead of a succession of otherwise unoccupied batsmen. That’s partly because you get more consistency, but also partly because you can chat with each other about the players without worrying about giving away information about what the bowlers are doing.

Beddington’s innings followed what has become a familiar pattern this season, with one or two batsmen making a decent start – the openers got 11 (off 16 balls, a good solid defensive showing before I gave him out LBW) and 36 – but then little to back them up. Only one got beyond 20, and only four made double figures. Scoring was extremely slow, at around 2 runs per over in the first ten overs. It then briefly went up to just over 5 an over for a short while as Old Ruts third and fourth bowlers came in, but that flurry didn’t last. From 66/3 in the 21st over, things collapsed to 98 all out from bowling that was very economical and a decent fielding performance.

Set a target of just 99 to win the sensible money would have been on Old Ruts to win quickly before everyone headed off for end of season drinks at their home clubs. But Beddington’s opening bowlers did an excellent job. Both opened with a maiden, and between them they gave away only 35 runs in their 16 overs, taking four wickets. If the team had kept going at that rate a Beddington win was on the cards, but it wasn’t to be. Several dropped catches meant that only one more wicket fell, and a settled partnership for the last ten overs played brought the score from a precarious 51/5 to the required 99 – with the last run coming, unfortunately, from a wide that was soooo wide that it was just impossible for me to be charitable about it and I had no choice but to give it, and be a meanie to the bowler.

I was happy with my performance, although I made two controversial decisions. The first was during Beddington’s innings when I gave the opening batsman out LBW. I took a while to make my decision, as it was close and I wanted to run it through in my head again, but I decided that the ball was going to just barely hit leg stump. Definitely an “umpire’s call” decision if there was a TV review! As I was raising my arm to signal that the batsman was out one of the fielders said “going down leg”, but no, I was sure. I was in a better position to see it than he was. The batsman was understandably miffed, and afterwards told me that if it was such a close decision I should have given him the benefit of the doubt. That, however, is not something that appears in the laws. I should give him out if I am sure that he is out. And I was sure. I was sure that he was only just out. The “benefit of the doubt” confusion comes from, if an umpire does have some doubt about a decision then he should err towards not making a decision – that is, not signalling out, or no ball, or wide, or anything else. But provided that I’m sure, I can be sure that the ball would have just tickled the stump, or sure that a bowler overstepped his mark by the smallest of margins. My other controversial decision was the first of two wides (the other being clearly wide to all concerned) I gave against one of Beddington’s bowlers. Again, it was a close decision – I suppose all contentious decisions will be – but I was sure, so gave it.

Finally, I added another no-ball to my collection! There are a bazillion reasons for a no-ball, the most common being the bowler being too far forward, and the two types of too high delivery. I’ve given those three numerous times. I’ve also given the rather rare no-ball for a ball bouncing twice before reaching the crease. In this game one of the Old Ruts bowlers had a delivery style where he kicked his rear foot up and to the side as he delivered the ball, usually missing the stumps by a few inches, occasionally straying much closer – and once, he kicked a bail off.

Ashtead under-11s festival, 2020-08-31

A bank holiday with most of the things I might normally have done – theatre, Go tournaments, professional sport, museums etc – closed, so I volunteered to umpire at this under-11s cricket festival when the call went out on the Surrey ACO mailing list. There were eight teams, first split into two groups of four which would all play each other once, followed by semi-finals for the top two in each group, and a final and a third place play-off. The format was 8 players a side, 7 overs per innings, with everyone except the wicket-keeper bowling one over, and batsmen retiring on 20, all of that to make sure that all the children got to play and no-one was left to just field all day. Ashtead’s field was divided into two with some netting down the middle, and the boys played on 17 yard pitches instead of the usual 22. To help keep things on schedule, wides and no-balls counted as two runs but no extra ball except in the last over of an innings. The wisdom of this was brought home to me when I had to signal wide on every single ball of one lad’s over. I didn’t really want to, it felt cruel, but I just couldn’t be generous to him when he was not just bowling out of the batsman’s reach, but off the strip entirely, and the no extra ball rule did at least mean that his pain wasn’t continued indefinitely.

I umpired three of the group matches and a semifinal, and it made a refreshing change to have actual umpires standing with me instead of the normal player-umpires just taking square leg duties. I won’t go into details of all the matches – I don’t have complete score books to refer to to refresh my memory and it wouldn’t be very interesting. However, a few things really stood out. With more players than overs in an innings, wickets weren’t worth much and so the batsmen took far more opportunities to run than would be prudent in longer-form cricket. They were helped by the fielding being more enthusiastic than effective, with far too many balls hurled from the field to the keeper or bowler, who was often in the wrong place, or couldn’t take a wild throw, and there was too often no back-up in case he missed it. So lots of runs came from overthrows – so many that at one point in one game there had been so many and the players kept stopping (as if they thought the ball was dead in a fielder’s hands) and then re-starting (when he threw it) that I put a stop to it by signalling dead ball. There were quite a lot of run-outs, at both ends. Finally, with enthusiastic rather than accurate bowling from some, and wicket-keepers who were both not yet very skilled and often too small to reach the ball, several teams opted to have a long stop to prevent the many byes going to the boundary. I’ve hardly ever seen a long stop outside of a diagram of fielding positions, for as the fount of all wisdom Wikipedia says it is generally only used “when a wicket-keeper is believed to be inept; the position is almost never seen in professional cricket”. Although I do wonder if it ought to make a come-back in the professional game as a defence against the new-fangled ramp shot.

It was an enjoyable day and the cricket was good enough that I stayed on as a spectator for the final even though I was no longer needed. I don’t think I made any terrible mistakes, but I did learn a few things from observing rather more experienced umpires up close and from nattering with umpires and scorers when I wasn’t in the field. First, I need to slow down before giving my signals to the scorers, especially when there has been a no-ball or wide, because the ball is still in play at that point and I really should continue to concentrate on it. In normal games this isn’t usually an issue as the wicket-keeper generally prevents anything from happening, but in these games there was often quite a lot that happened after a wide especially. And second, most of my colleagues (all of whom were considerably more experienced than me) were fastidious about making sure that both their on-field colleague at square leg and the scorer were ready to start an innings.

Beddington 4th XI vs Old Wimbledonians, 2020-08-29

40/40 game reduced to 35/35. Beddington won the toss and fielded first. Old Wimbledonians 143/4. Beddington 116ao from 33.3 overs – scorecard

The soggy Pavilion end, after the game was finished

Overnight rain left the outfield soaking, so much so that just standing on it would squeeze water out around your shoes in some places. The pitch had been covered, but the covers seem to have come loose in the high winds and so it was also wet around the wickets at both ends and in a patch in the middle. The covers were just coming off as I arrived and I went straight out to see how things were. Conditions were atrocious. Just putting your foot down – in ordinary shoes, not spikes – left a clear imprint next to the wicket where the bowlers would be landing, and without much effort I could push my finger into the ground. Start to put any force on the ground like the bowlers would and it would cut up horribly, to the extent that I thought it would be dangerously unsound footing. There was a strong breeze which would help things to dry out, but I wasn’t optimistic. A few minutes before the scheduled start at 1pm I did another pitch inspection and while things had improved they hadn’t improved enough in my opinion, and so despite much complaint from one of Beddington’s bowlers I told the captains we would delay the start and I would have another look in half an hour. The complaining bowler’s position was that if he was happy to bowl he should be allowed to. But that’s not how it works. In any case, the rest of the field, including parts of the pitch, was so wet that even if we had started on time it wouldn’t have been a very good game. Finally, another half hour later, I did a third inspection and deemed that the breeze had helped the ground firm up enough that we could get the game on. The late start reduced the game from 40 overs a side to 35.

With the help of plenty of sawdust on the bowlers’ landing spots the ground held up pretty well, but even so it was a difficult batting pitch, as the wetter spots were dead and so the ball often kept unexpectedly low. Old Wimbledonians’ first wicket fell for just three runs, and after the first ten overs the score was just ten. But after that point Wimbledonians got into their stride and started scoring more freely. The second wicket didn’t fall until the 25th over, with the score on 84, for a fairly respectable three and a bit per over, and after that they really cracked on, going at nigh on 6 an over for the rest of their innings, punishing the part-time bowlers hard. Their opening batsman carried his bat, making 62. I thought Beddington’s performance in the field was a lot better than last week, and that the target of 144 was not out of reach, especially as conditions for the batsman were improving as things dried out.

Beddington’s innings got off to a cracking start. It took Wimbledonians eight overs to score eight runs, it took Beddington’s opening batsman just one over. But unfortunately wickets fell too quickly to some good bowling – six men were out bowled – and only three made it past 20 runs, with six making less than 10. There was one comedy dismissal, where the non-striker had left the crease but then there was no run. He just stood there, several feet out of his ground. The ball went to a fielder, who chucked it back to the bowler, and I had the easiest run-out decision ever. I really didn’t want to give it, because it was such a silly way to get out and he had plenty of time to walk back to safety, but he didn’t, so I had no choice. Later, when Beddington’s last two men were batting, Wimbledonians had another opportunity for an easy run-out as the two batsmen had run into each other and were lying on the ground laughing at themselves. I thought it was very sporting that they didn’t take the wicket. Bravo!

I was happy with my performance. I do wonder if I did the right thing by delaying the start – whether conditions were actually dangerous – but aside from that I’m confident that I got everything else right. There were surprisingly few silly appeals in this game, which was good. Another sign, like Wimbledonians’ generously not taking that wicket after the pratfall, that the game was played in the spirit it ought to be.

Beddington 4th XI vs Dulwich, 2020-08-22

40/40 game. Beddington won the toss and fielded first. Dulwich 207/7. Beddington 110/9 – scorecard

It was a very windy day, played initially under cloudy skies which brightened up a bit later in the afternoon. There were a few spots of rain, one of which suddenly got heavier from one ball to the next and I decided to take the players off after that ball – which had, unfortunately seen a batsman dismissed. But before we’d even made it as far as the boundary the rain stopped and so we went straight back to it. A rain stoppage not resulting in any time lost – that’s probably the most unusual thing I’ll see this season. That had been rain earlier in the week but while there was a bit of green on the pitch it was baked hard. I took bowler’s end duties throughout. One of the Dulwich bowlers complained at the start of his spell that his landing spot had been too broken up during the previous innings, but it looked fine to me, the ground was solid. He opted to consistently land slightly to the right of it (closer to the wicket), but he seemed to perform well and if his performance was degraded by landing a couple of inches to the right of his normal spot then I’d love to see him at his best! His new landing spot put him very close to hitting the protected area during his follow through, and he may well have actually done so a few times, but it wasn’t to any significant extent (he didn’t block my view of the batsman and wicket at the other end) and if I police that rigorously I can’t look for LBWs, so I let it go.

Dulwich’s innings got off to a rocky start, losing the first two wickets for just eleven runs and the third for just fourteen more, due to a combination of excellent bowling and quick fielding. Unfortunately once the two opening bowlers finished their spells they couldn’t hold it together. Between them those two allowed just 44 runs from the first 16 overs, an average of less than 3 per over between them. The third wicket went with 70 runs on the board and the fourth with 147 as the rest of Beddington’s bowlers all went for over 5 an over, at least some of which was because of consistent fielding mishaps.

Beddington’s innings didn’t start well, with the first wicket falling in the first over – a wicket maiden. I’d turned down an LBW appeal the previous ball – if my memory of what happened 24 hours ago is correct I’d only turned it down because there was just a leeeetle bit of doubt in my mind about whether the ball would have hit the stumps. But one ball later there was no doubt. The next wicket didn’t fall until the 11th over, but where you would normally expect the second wicket partnership to score at a nice steady rate these two just couldn’t. There were two more maiden overs before the second wicket fell for just 21 runs scored. Even so, that slow scoring mirrored Dulwich’s in their innings. Dulwich scored 44 from the first 16 overs, Beddington scored 45. But Dulwich’s subsequent bowlers allowed far fewer runs than Beddington’s had, helped by enthusiastic fielding. They were especially good at chasing balls down (and hence saving runs) which would, when Beddington was fielding, have gone for four. Beddington’s last two batsmen put on 36 runs between them, but by then it was far, far too late.

I was much happier with my performance today, and I think I made only one mistake. Early on in Beddington’s innings I wasn’t sure if one of their batsman was quite making his ground before turning round for a second run, so I made sure to keep an eye on him. It wasn’t long before I spotted a short run. Only by an inch or so, but an inch out is an inch out, so I signalled “short run”. Or rather, I thought I signalled short run. I actually signalled “5 penalty runs to the fielding side”. There was no acknowledgement from the scorers, who were no doubt confused as there was no reason for penalty runs, so I yelled “one short” at them, thinking that they either couldn’t see the signal or didn’t understand such a rare signal. We got the right result in the end, but I need to revise my lesser-used signals!

Malden Wanderers vs Beddington 4th XI, 2020-08-15

40/40 game reduced to 30/30. Beddington won the toss and fielded first. Malden 190/5. Beddington 80 from 20 overs – scorecard

Thankfully it wasn’t as desperately hot as it had been for the past week (34ยบ C and 75% humidity is inhuman!) but it was still warm and humid. Recent rain had left everything bright green, even a little bit of green on the pitch. It had also left the ground a bit soft and towards the end I was getting concerned that it was turning muddy and slippery where the bowlers’ feet were landing but thankfully it only deteriorated so far. In that respect I’m glad we only played 50 overs instead of the scheduled 80. There was little bounce in the pitch. We were on Malden’s second field, which is quite small. It shares a boundary with their main field, something that I am not keen on, as no-one likes getting an unexpected bonk on their bonce from the game next door when fielding. I took the bowler’s end throughout. The weather forecast was for rain later in the afternoon, and depending on which forecast you believed it would be either a few light showers or a torrential downpour that would leave the surface unplayable, so the captains and I agreed beforehand to reduce the game to 30 overs a side to increase the chances of getting a result. As it happened the rain held off and we would have been able to go the full length anyway with perhaps just a little drizzle. Hindsight is a wonderful thing! Aside from my minor grumbles above about the field, I like the Malden club. They were very friendly and most importantly they have a decent beer selection.

Malden’s batting was dominated by a young man who carried his bat, and was desperately unlucky to not make his century when their innings finished with him on 99 not out. Beddington were terribly hampered by some injuries while fielding. One young player had to retire from the game very early – I think it was in the second over – when he did himself a mischief while chasing a ball to the boundary. They were down to fielding with ten men for a couple of overs while one of the accompanying parents changed into his whites to come on as a substitute fielder. Then after the fifth over, another young player, who had come into the game with a knee injury but told everyone he could play, had to be carried from the field. So again, down to ten fielders temporarily while another substitute got kitted up. Add to all those woes the fact that Malden’s side batted well and Beddington’s fielding was leaky and they dropped a couple of catches.

Beddington’s innings started with Malden bowling two wicket-maidens, both of the openers getting out for nowt. One of those was down to a third injury. Another of Beddington’s youngsters got hit on his sternum by one of the few balls that bounced. Very painful and we paused for a couple of minutes so he could get his breath back. But whether it was because he had lost his confidence or because of the painful bruise, he was out for a duck a couple of balls later. I hope he returns to form for the remaining games of the season as he is usually a good batsman, great fun to watch. Only three of Beddington’s ten batsmen (the player with the knee injury from the first innings came out to bat but did not score) got any runs, those runs coming from 16 fours and 9 singles, as Malden did an excellent job in the field. Malden’s innings by comparison had been far more balanced with 5 sixes, 21 fours, 11 twos and 32 singles.

I am not happy with my own performance. My head wasn’t in the game as we began and I know that not only did I do my old trick of forgetting to signal byes, I even forgot to signal some early boundaries despite entering them on my run counter. Thankfully the scorer put them all in the book! I had to give two batsmen out when they didn’t walk. One was LBW, he was very cross with me but the ball landed on his toes dead in front of middle stump and would have gone on to hit it about a third of the way up. The other was a player caught behind, off the tiniest of edges. I clearly heard it, but he looked disbelieving at me before heading off. I turned down a few LBW appeals, one of which was perhaps a bit contentious. It was certainly close but I couldn’t be sure the ball was going to hit the wicket so couldn’t give it. One for the TV umpire when that becomes available at this level! The rest of the dismissals needed no input from me as the batsmen walked. I did get irritated at one of the player-umpires who was playing with his phone in between balls and even at one point got so engrossed in it that he didn’t change ends for a new over until I yelled at him. Bad. Naughty. I shall Have Words the next time he accompanies me, although I should really have had a quiet word with him in between overs, so bad naughty me as well.

Finally, I had an Umpire Groupie! One of my father’s cousins lives within spitting distance of the club so I told him there was a game on and invited him and his wife to come and watch. Afterwards I went to their house for dinner and a refreshing litre of tea, where I moaned lots about how much my feet hurt and how hard it was to stand up again after finally sitting down.

Beddington 4th XI vs Sutton, 2020-08-01

40/40 game. Beddington won the toss and fielded first. Sutton 150/8. Beddington 129 from 33 overs – scorecard

My third game of the season, and the first to be completed, was played under changing, hot conditions. I was the only umpire, being accompanied by glamourous assistants who took square leg duties while I was at the bowler’s end throughout. It started with bright sunshine getting cloudier throughout, but the rain, such as it was, just a few light drops, held off until the Lager Innings. The outfield was scorched dry, with the ball running away fast, but the square had been watered. The strip we were using had a tinge of green to it, but was baked hard.

Early on in their innings Sutton were scoring fast, at one point looking like they might make 200, but after a high-scoring opening, Beddington’s bowlers pegged them back. It turns out that the young lad who I erroneously gave out last week can also bowl, getting 3 wickets for 10 runs conceded from his 4 overs.

Beddington’s innings started a bit wobbly, with the first two wickets falling with just 11 runs scored, but a 71 run partnership for the third wicket seemed to get things back on track with some fine batting that I was very much enjoying watching (being the umpire really does give you the best seat in the house) and I was rather annoyed when they both got out in quick succession, and the rest of the wickets fell for little profit. Aside from that one good partnership the highest score was eight. Sutton had a boy from their under-13s side who finished off most of the tail. His bowling was wild, but in his 4 overs bowled he got 4 wickets for 13 runs conceded. His feet were all over the place, often landing a long way back from the crease, and he gave away a lot of extras, but when he landed right he got wickets – results count for more than style.

After last week I had decided I was too lenient regarding wides, so was quite a bit stricter today. There were still some grumbles from batsmen for me not giving them, but that was their fault for moving towards what would have been a wide ball as I noted last week.

After my LBW mistake of last week I wonder if I perhaps veered too far in the opposite direction. I only gave two (one per team) despite many appeals. A few of those appeals were of course the usual ridiculousness were a fielder at point screams for a wicket, and a couple had the whole team go up including those who had a good view of what happened. There were a couple I only turned down because I couldn’t be sure that the ball hadn’t hit the bat – they were otherwise dead straight deliveries, but most I turned down either because I thought they were missing the stumps or had not hit the batsman in line with the stumps. Without the benefit of a suite of cameras, microphones and computers I just can’t tell if I’m getting it right or not, the best I can do is aim to be consistent, and I think I was. At some point I may sign up for a couple of hours with the techno-wizardry at the MCC indoor academy. When I do I am prepared to be terribly embarrassed!

Spencer CC vs Beddington 4th XI, 2020-07-25

40/40 game. Spencer won the toss and fielded first. Beddington 128/9 from 38.3 overs when the match was abandoned due to rain – scorecard

My previous match at this ground was almost exactly a year ago. That was rainy too, with the match starting late and being reduced to 30 overs a side. This time we started on time but the forecast was never good. The last several overs of the first innings were played in persistent drizzle, we eventually came off when it turned heavier, and reached the shelter of the pavilion as the heavens opened. The rain didn’t take long to return to drizzle but by that point the outfield was drenched, and I was concerned about the new ball in those conditions if we’d started the second innings. As it was, the captains agreed between them to abandon the match as it looked highly unlikely that we’d be able to restart in time for Spencer to get the required minimum 20 overs to bat.

I think I made one big mistake, giving one of Beddington’s openers (a young lad who is a very good batsman) out LBW. The ball was certainly going on to hit the stumps, but he was adamant that he had got an edge with the bat, as was his fellow opener at the non-striker’s end. But I didn’t hear it, so I gave him out. He objected strongly but his colleague told him to clear off and respect the umpire. From what I overheard from some fielders later, I shouldn’t have given him out as he did get an edge on it. I apologised to him later when we left the field.

The batsmen were also, during one particular bowler’s spell, surprised that I wasn’t giving wides. Several of his balls were marginal calls and if they’d been any wider I would have given them. The one that he did get wide enough to call, I didn’t because the batsman had moved towards it (law 22.4.1).

And I made one small mistake – I forgot about the new regulation for this season that the ball must be cleaned every six overs. I was reminded of this just before the drinks break at 20 overs, so for the second half of the innings I took some wipes out with me and did that.

I am cursed, 2020-07-19

My first match of the season was supposed to be today, at Ashburnham, who were playing Catsfield. There was a bit of rain around in the morning when I left London, heading to my parents place for a pre-match lunch, but that cleared up. After lunch I headed off to the ground … and the heavens opened. It absolutely bucketed down. But not for long, and so we got started only a little bit late, with me doing bowler’s-end duty throughout. After a grand total of 4.2 overs I took the players off as it had started raining again, and the bowlers’ landing points were already turning muddy and slippery. After a further 20-odd minutes of hanging around everyone agreed that even if the rain did stop the ground wasn’t going to dry out enough so the match was abandoned.

Then on my way home a couple of hours later I saw there was a game on at Blindley Heath so I stopped to watch. When I arrived the batting team were on 117 for 5, although chasing a target of over 200. Twelve minutes later they were all out.

Clearly I have offended the gods and am cursed to only see a few minutes of cricket this season.

On a better note, however, I don’t appear to be terribly rusty. I remembered to give all the right signals, even for byes which I forgot an awful lot of the time last year.