40/40 game. Beddington won the toss and chose to field. Streatham & Marlborough 187/6. Beddington 137 ao from 39.3 overs – scorecard
Streatham & Marlborough’s leafy ground is separated from the surrounding busy roads by trees, and around the upper field there are a couple of little picknicking spots where the trees have been cut back. The clubhouse looks rather run down as you approach it – they plan to build a new one this winter – but the side facing the main field is cheerier, and the building is hidden by a large willow tree when you’re on the second, lower field which we used. A church spire overlooks this second field. My pre-match saunter around the ground revealed a rather unusually shaped boundary. Almost all grounds have an entirely convex boundary, but here there is a small concavity where the boundary comes in to go around the nets that are built in one corner of the field.
This was the first of my league matches where the hosting club actually had markers for the 30 yard inner circle! One of the league regulations is that no more than five fielders may be outside this, but most clubs don’t mark it and captains and umpires are expected to just do their best to observe it. Unfortunately they weren’t put out at anything like 30 yards, so I paced off what was about the right distance and we moved them all before play started. They also provided a bowler’s marker at each end – hurrah! one less thing for me to stuff in my pockets!
Beddington were hampered by having a player missing for much of the first innings, as his car had broken down en route, but even had that not been the case I don’t think it would have changed the result.
As usual, I was the only umpire, being accompanied by player-umpires throughout, although in this game they were taking both square leg and bowler’s end duties. Unfortunately the game was not played in the best grace. I know that sledging is part of the game, but I felt that it was taken too far by one player in particular. The “spirit of cricket” in the preamble to the Laws admonishes players to be respectful of their opponents, and to create a positive atmosphere, neither of which was the case here. I found it bloody annoying but let it go for a while, but when a batsman decided to bring it to my attention I felt that I had to intervene. I quiet word with the player’s captain soon put a stop to it and the motormouth player instead switched to rather more respectful (and a lot funnier) banter with his own team mates, but sadly by then the atmosphere had been poisoned and no-one was particularly happy – there was no hanging about for shared post-match beers afterwards.
I’m not sure that I handled this correctly. I’m happy that I didn’t need to consult with the player who was deputised to be my colleague at the time, partly because I had no intention of using law 42 and making it all official with levels of offence and reports to the league and so on – I don’t want to be a pedantic priss. I am mindful of an interview I listened to with the rugby referee Nigel Owens, in which he said that what makes a great referee is communication and knowing when to let stuff go and not reach for the rule book. And also given that my colleague was a player from the same team that had prompted me to intervene I didn’t feel that any input of his into the decision would be seen to be fair. It’s important to be both fair and seen to be fair.
I think I did the right thing by intervening and by not intervening harder, but I’m not really sure if I should have intervened earlier. I’ve never played in a match where anyone felt sledging was getting inappropriate, I’ve never been to a match as a spectator where I’ve known anything like that was happening – it is of course hard to hear sledging from the boundary! – and I don’t know what guidelines other umpires use. I understand that this sort of thing is covered in some detail in the ECB’s Level 2 umpiring course, which I plan to take before next season.