Ashburnham vs Eastbourne Martlets, 2019-09-22

Timed game: 5 hours including tea break, 1 innings each. Ashburnham won the toss and chose to bat. Ashburnham 223/5 d from 36 overs. Martlets 224/7 from 36 overs.

This was my first timed game. Of course, rarely does a team ever get 20 overs (the minimum for the last hour) done in an hour, the normal rate is more like 16 an hour and so the last hour, and the game, is longer than those naughty lying clocks tell you. Given the size of the ground and the frequency with which balls need to be hunted down from hedges and the surrounding fields I’m surprised that the over rate here isn’t noticeably lower than that. The captains agreed beforehand that there would be a declaration at tea if necessary, which would come after 2h20 – all very friendly. I was accompanied by player-umpires, but did square leg duties as normal.

There had been rain overnight, a short shower shortly before play started, and it was very humid, with the forecast promising more rain. Thankfully the forecast was wrong, and while it was overcast until the last half hour there were no interruptions. The pitch which had apparently been bone dry and dusty when mowed the day before was, thanks to the overnight rain, green all over, but the ground was firm all over. It wasn’t very helpful to the bowlers, with no-one really getting the ball to turn much and only one getting noticeable swing.

The game started off extremely high scoring, the first two overs going for 11 and 12, but soon settled down to 6-ish per over. Ashburnham’s openers both got into the 40s, one of them out for 49, and their number 4 got a very good 72*. I thought the Martlets were being very conservative with their appeals. There were a couple of balls when I was surprised they didn’t appeal for LBW. I would have turned them both down, but even so, I’m used to a lot more appeals in league games.

After tea, the Martlets’ innings started just as fast, with 15 and 8 from the first two overs, and the seventh, which understandably was that bowler’s last, went for 20 – he finished his spell on 1/50. The other bowlers were more frugal though, and at one point I wondered if Ashburnham might be able to bowl them out in time. However, the game was won by the Martlets’ 5th and 6th batsman. They came in respectively when the scores were 111 and 113, and made an excellent 70 partnership during which number 5, who was clearly normally a tail-ender, very uncomfortable filling in up the order, made all of 8 runs from 39 balls while his partner tonked it all over the place. While he was clearly uncomfortable at the crease he played a magnificently safe innings, never going for shots beyond his ability, leaving balls when he could, and playing solid defensive shots when he had to. Once those two were out there were only another 34 required and plenty of overs left, so I expected a Martlets’ victory if they played sensibly. And that’s how they were going, until a terribly expensive last over finished the game, with four byes from the last ball. That last over was an anomaly in some otherwise good bowling figures, that bowler getting 3 wickets for 59 runs, having bowled 13 overs (2 of which were maidens) without a break.

One notable feature of the game is the methods of dismissal. Ashburnham’s dismissed batsmen were all caught, while none of the Martlets’ were. I wonder just how rare this is.

I think I had another good game, my one minor error stemming from it being my first timed game and so not being as familiar with this format as I am with limited overs games. There aren’t supposed to be any drinks breaks during the last hour of play, but because they had previously been scheduled for 1h10 into the innings and we started the second innings late as tea was taken rather leisurely, drinks came on after the first over of the last hour. What I should have done is, when my watch buzzed at me for the start of the last hour, called for drinks at the end of that over, and then signalled the start of the last hour when we started the next over. A trivial matter really, and I’m not going to beat myself up over it!

King’s Road Social and Cricket Club vs Plastics XI, 2019-09-14

40/40 game. Plastics won the toss and chose to bat. Plastics 139/6. Kings Road 141/3 from 26.1 overs – scorecard

I’m now winding down the season with a few friendly matches, this one back with the Plastics with whom I started the season, and I stood at the bowler’s end throughout the game. It was a surprisingly hot day for the time of year, with clear skies throughout. We were playing on a well-maintained municipal pitch which had a few green patches in the middle but was completely bare and the surface cracking up at the ends especially around the bowlers’ landing areas. Those noticeably broke down throughout the day becoming rather sandy. The field was huge, roughly the same size as the Oval. As we were playing on a pitch right at one edge of the square we moved the boundary in about 20 yards on the far side. Even so, it was still big enough that we didn’t just get a few 3s being run, there was even a run 4 – with no fielding errors involved!

Plastics innings was dominated by the opening batsman who was not out on 72. They got off to a slow start, with the run rate at one point being just 2 an over. But it soon settled on, and remained at, a more respectable 3 and a bit per over for the rest of the innings. The one really notable event was when the first wicket fell after 16 overs. There was an appeal for LBW, which I turned down (there were a lot fewer appeals in this game than in previous ones) but of course the ball is still live at that point. The batsman was out of his ground, so the quick-thinking King’s Road wicket-keeper, who I thought had an excellent game throughout, came forward, picked it up, and took the bails off to stump him. There was much confusion, but he was still out!

King’s Road pride themselves on the quality of their tea and are competitive about it, with the players each bringing a dish, preferably home-made, and both sides voting after the game for which was best. For me, the simple ham and mustard sarnies won it, but the wicket-keeper’s lamb curry was also excellent.

On to King’s Road’s innings, and to start with it looked like it would be a close game. But it wasn’t long before they were pulling away. After scoring only 19 in the first six overs – which put them behind the required run rate – they got a lot quicker. They were well over half way to the target by the time we took tea, and after tea scored even quicker. You only need to look at the bowling stats to see why. King’s Road’s bowlers got 9 maidens in their 40 overs, and gave away two wides and two no-balls. The Plastics got 1 maiden and gave away 7 wides and 7 no-balls. King’s Road’s bowlers were more controlled and economical, and in limited overs cricket if you can’t bowl a team out quickly being economical is better than taking wickets.

Onto the beer innings – we first went to the Prince of Wales for a quick refresher, a flat roof pub next to the ground that has been done up inside and has a reasonable range of beers but some unfortunately broken down furniture on the patio out the back. We then moved on to the William Morris, which appears to be a new pub in an old riverside mill next to the Wandle. The evening was still warm, and sitting out by the river with some beers and trying to drunkenly explain how to adjudicate wides was a nice end to a good day out. King’s Road are a good club, and I’d be very happy to umpire for them again.

Normally after I’ve written my match report we’d get into the Maoist self-criticism section and you could all laugh at my ineptitude. But I don’t think I made any bad mistakes in this match. Instead I’d like to single out one of the King’s Road batsmen, Raju Mazumder, for excellent sportsmanship. The very first ball of his team’s innings hit him on the pad and raced away towards the boundary. However, he had not played a shot. This is one of those weird edge-cases that very rarely happens, most players don’t know about, and is all too easy to forget as an umpire because it’s so rare. Law 23.2.1 says that leg byes are not given if no shot is offered. Knowing that this is such a rare case, the batsman called “no shot”, which was a very helpful reminder to me! I would have erroneously given four leg byes for his team otherwise, but thanks to his honesty I signalled dead ball, and if it wasn’t for a wide later in the over the Plastics would have opened with a maiden.

Wallington vs Beddington 4th XI, 2019-09-07

40/40 game. Beddington won the toss and chose to field. Wallington 117/9. Beddington 118/7 from 30.4 overs – scorecard

This was the last league game of my first season umpiring, and again I took the bowler’s end duties throughout. The field was noticeably longer than it was wide, making it noticeably harder than normal to get boundaries from straight drives and nicks behind, and easier to get boundaries off to the sides. So much easier that Wallington have erected very high fences along those boundaries in an attempt to lose fewer balls when they get tonked for six. In this game, however, there were only two sixes, one of which ended up in a neighbour’s back garden anyway. There is a slight slope from one side to the other, but I didn’t notice it have much effect. The pitch was a bit concave, with the wickets standing on slight humps at the ends.

Going into the match, Wallington were already relegated and Beddington already promoted, although in second place and a win would give them a chance of topping the division (results elsewhere ended up preventing this). Despite there not being much to play for I felt that both teams still gave their all. After all, if you’re playing at this level you’re primarily playing because it’s fun, and this was the last opportunity for league fun.

Wallington got off to a slow start, and something like a quarter of the overs Beddington bowled before the drinks break were maidens. And unfortunately they never really sped up. All five of Beddington’s main bowlers had an excellent economy rate under 3 an over, some of them being closer to 2 an over. Even the one part-time bowler went for less than 4 an over. An unusually high proportion of Wallington’s batsmen were out bowled or LBW. I gave three out LBW, which would normally make me wonder if I’d been a bit trigger-happy, but in this case I’m comfortable that I wasn’t.

After their innings Wallington provided a notably good tea.

Beddington’s innings got off to a much faster start. A mid-innings wobble, losing four wickets for just 17 runs, gave Wallington a small chance, but a good all-rounder performance and management of who was on strike in the tail ended up giving Beddington a comfortable victory.

I got to use a very unusual umpiring signal in this match! Although I didn’t actually see it happen due to the bowler standing in the way, there was a point in the Wallington innings where the fielders all told me that the keeper had fumbled a catch and the ball had hit his helmet that was lying on the ground behind the stumps. Five penalty runs to the batting side! Although I had to be told to give it I don’t really count this as an error on my part as my view was blocked.

However, regular readers will know that I have written about one of my umpiring errors in every entry in this journal so far. And I’m afraid that this time it was an absolutely colossal howler. I gave a no-ball for having more than two fielders behind leg. Unfortunately I had gone left/right colour-blind – the batsman was left-handed so his stance was reversed from normal, and the three fielders were actually behind the off-side. Oops. Oh so very oops. Profuse apologies, much blushing, a reversed decision, and when I joined the players back in the Beddington club-house for post-match beers some well-deserved taking the piss. But after making such a ridiculous mistake I’m very sure that I’ll never make that one again. It’s going to be a much easier mistake to fix than, for example, my earlier repeated forgetting to give byes. And I think that the lesson I’ve learned from it about how important it is to pay attention to the batsman before the ball is delivered, as well as to the delivery and what the batsman consequently does, will help me with judging LBWs. I’ve mentioned earlier about an error I made giving a left-handed batsman out LBW, but I think going into “concentration mode” a little bit earlier on each ball will also improve the quality of my LBW decisions over all.

Beddington 4th XI vs Reigate Priory, 2019-08-31

40/40 game. Beddington won the toss and chose to field. Reigate Priory 145/8. Beddington 140/9 – scorecard

As we come to the end of the season and the sun sets a bit earlier, start times are moved forward an hour. After the last two weekends of having an umpire colleague it was back to player-umpires today, and so I took bowler’s end duties throughout, with them standing at square leg.

The forecast said that there was a very small – just 1% – chance of a bit of drizzle later in the afternoon, but to start with it was a lovely sunny day with just a few white clouds in a bright blue sky. Reigate’s innings looked at first like it would be alarmingly short, with the first five wickets falling for just 51 runs. Their captain, however, coming in at number 6, put in a good performance, scoring half his team’s runs and steadying the ship.

As the day wore on it became cloudier and the wind got up. About a third of the way into Beddington’s innings I felt a few rain drops. “That would be that 1% chance of drizzle then”, I thought, and it shortly went away. But the clouds built up and it got darker, and the second half of Beddington’s innings was played in intermittent showers. Beddington got off to a much better start in their innings, but had their own little collapse and, chasing a target of 146, they were exactly half way – half way with 73 runs, half way with 5 wickets gone, and half way with 20 overs remaining – at the tea break. That would normally be a recipe for a comfortable win for Reigate. But after the 8th wicket fell for 109 the tailenders did sterling work. With three overs to go they needed 27, and despite me giving an LBW early in that over, they made the required run rate, and only needed 9 from the last over. A change of bowler for that last over, however, restricted Beddington and they ended up six runs short of victory.

I considered taking the players off because of the rain, and by a happy coincidence I had read up on the ECB’s guidance notes for umpires after recent – and unwarranted –press criticism of Aleem Dar’s decision making around weather stopping play in the Ireland test match. I briefly discussed the situation with my colleague during the first significant shower. His opinion was “they’re happy to continue so let’s carry on” which is contrary to the guidance. That makes it clear that the umpires shouldn’t consider whether the players want to continue. I did not press the issue and just asked him to let me know if his opinion changed, as when there is only one umpire I should listen to his opinion but the responsibility is mine, and mine alone. At no point, however, did I think that the ground was becoming dangerously slippery, either off the pitch, or on the bowler’s run-up or landing areas, or in front of the wicket. I checked as I was walking from end to end. The other safety issue is whether the bowler can properly grip the ball and control his delivery. I carry a small towel for this reason – I would never have considered doing this if I hadn’t gone on the course back in February though at which it was mentioned. The final thing to consider was whether the rain was adversely affecting the ball so as to be unfair to the fielding side. I did not believe it was seriously affected, given that the rain didn’t really start until the second half of the innings and the shine had already been taken off. In any case, this is a matter where we should pay attention to any requests from the players to change the ball so no action is necessary unless they ask for it.

I don’t think I made any controversial decisions, but I did make one error. One of the Beddington batsmen edged a ball down leg side. The wicket keeper hared off after it, stopped the ball and hurled it back. I was unsure whether it had reached the boundary, which was marked with a white line and not a rope, and seeing no signal from the fielder (I had at earlier points in the match) I just assumed it hadn’t and that just the one that the batsmen had run should count. The scorer, however, had been nearby and clearly seen it cross the boundary, so despite my not signalling it he had noted down a four. I realised what had happened when the score board was updated at the end of the over to show three more than I expected, and I let it go. In retrospect I should have asked the fielder once the ball was dead instead of just assuming that no signal from him meant no boundary. Compounding the error, I had already asked a batsman earlier in the innings if he had edged a ball or if it had gone off his pad for leg byes when I wasn’t sure! The lesson for this match is “if in doubt, ask”. I may not have a third umpire watching on TV, but I can at least ask players and scorers for help.